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New Covid-19 assessment centre is operational

THE HIGHEST safety standards and infection control measures will be stringently applied in a new assessment unit for Clare’s Covid-19 patients, according to a local doctor.

A new assessment service for local confirmed and suspected Covid-19 patients whose health is deteriorating started in Shannon Health Centre on Wednesday.

There are 106 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Clare compared to 265 in Limerick and 219 in Tipperary on Wednesday.

In total, 20 local general practitioners have volunteered to work in the new Community Assessment Hub following special induction training.

Dr Páraic Meaney of the Burrren Medical Centre, Corofin, told the Clare Champion any patient who will be treated by the new service have nothing to fear as it is purposely designed to minimise patient contact with others.

Dr Meaney confirmed all staff who will be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) have received training on how to put on and take off this equipment.

“This service is for patients who have a presumed or a positive test for Covid-19 whose condition is worsening and requires an urgent face-to-face consultation following a referral by their own GP. All other patients will continue to be managed by their own GP.

“About 80% of Covid-19 patients will have mild symptoms. For patients whose condition is deteriorating this can happen from day five to day thirteen. This deterioration sometimes can happen quickly and these patients will be seen in the hub.

“The aim of the hub is to help slow the spread of the virus,” he said. He said any patient with mild symptoms needs to self-isolate and continue to liaise with their GP  over the phone if they require assistance or advice.

He reiterated the need for people to continue employing social distancing by keeping two metres apart from others, regular hand washing, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue that is disposed to keep as many Covid-19 cases out of hospital as possible.

The unit, which is located near Shannon Garda Station will provide a new service Monday to Sunday by appointment only from 8 to 8pm, which may change and is subject to national standards and procedures.

The normal staffing ratio is two doctors, two nurses and one physiotherapist and it is expected the roster will operate on a four days on three days off basis.

The new Community Assessment Hub, which is the only one of its kind in the county, will be run by two co-ordinating nurses under the direction of regional clinical operational lead, Margaret
Costelloe.

One of the nurse co-ordinators, who didn’t wish to be named, stressed patients attending the centre have nothing to fear as it is a very safe place for both patients and staff.

She said once patients receive a GP-referral they will receive all the required information about what they need to bring for their appointment.

She confirmed patients will be required to wear a mask as part of infection control procedures.
Staff will be wearing full personal protective equipment including face and eye protection, full body suit and gloves.

The Clare Champion understands there is a plan to provide some isolation facilities in the county.

On arrival in the hub, the patient is received at the reception area and registration procedure completed.

The patient is brought to a sterile room for nurse/healthcare professional observation, medical history/ blood pressure etc.

A nurse or healthcare professional briefs GP who then undertakes the physical examination and clinical assessment.

The GP advises the nurse/healthcare professional regarding the course of action and referral.
The administration process in the Hub will arrange for the referral home, hospital or alternative location as appropriate.

The outcome of clinical assessment and referral will be sent back to referring GP.

The Clare Champion was provided with a tour of the new service and facilities on Tuesday last.

The centre contains five clinical single rooms with washing facilities where a patient will be seen one at a time, a GP/multi-disciplinary training room, staff quarters, kitchen, changing area and toilets.

Shannon Health Centre previously accommodated a wide range of services under primary continuing and community care, which have now moved to different locations.

If a patient has breathing difficulties, a physiotherapist will discuss further treatment possibilities in consultation with a doctor and nurse.

According to the HSE’s Covid-19 Community Assessment Hubs Operational Model, when a referral is received in the hub, it will be acknowledged to the referrer and patients generally will be
phoned to arrange their appointment.

Appointments will be of 20 minutes duration on average, allowing for use of PPE.

The service is designed to accept referrals and to issue appointments within 24 hours, however, 48 hours has been defined as the maximum pre-booking period for safety reasons.

A copy of the assessment outcome will be provided to the patient for the information of their next
point of care and or their own GP

Gps will staffing hubs will on a voluntary basis. No GP over 60 will be assigned to work in a hub.
GP trainees will not be the sole clinician in the hub at any time and a qualified and experienced GPwill be present with the rostered GP trainees.

Staff returning from retirement will not be assigned to work in the hubs.

As GP trainees are HSE employees, the current redeployment criteria and protections will apply.

Dan Danaher

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