The lead adviser on Covid-19 with the Irish College of General Practitioners has said testing criteria for the coronavirus should be widened, but we must ensure we have the capacity to process additional tests in a timely manner.

Dr Nuala O'Connor told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that at present GPs are sending requests for 1,300 to 1,400 tests per day, but even one additional test per doctor each day will significantly increase the numbers, she said.

"Our concern really is if there is sufficient capacity to accommodate the change in testing," Dr O'Connor said.

"We currently have relatively restricted testing: patients need to have a fever and a cough or shortness of breath, and they also need to belong to a high risk group.

"So we do understand the rationale behind broadening testing, but when we previously widened the testing we didn't have the capacity to turn around the tests in sufficient time."

A date for the widening of testing criteria is expected this week, Dr O'Connor said, as well as a final decision on the change in criteria.

The latest figures from the Health Service Executive show there are just over 1,000 people in the country's acute hospitals, with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.

The number of new confirmed cases of the virus has risen by less than 5% on seven of the last eight days but hundreds of new cases continue to be announced daily and more than 1,000 new cases were announced over the weekend.

As of last night, 1,006 people were in the country's 29 acute hospitals with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. 

Hospital admissions rose by 3% between Saturday and Sunday morning after falling slightly the previous day. 

The Mater Hospital in Dublin has the highest number of confirmed cases, with 118, followed by the rest of the Dublin hospitals. Outside the capital, Mayo has 34 confirmed cases, Limerick 31 and Cork 25.

There were 133 people in Intensive care units with confirmed or suspected Covid 19, 72 on ventilators.  And there were 153 critical care beds still available. 

The figures show the growth rate in new cases in this country has remained under 5% for seven of the past eight days.

But hundreds of new cases are still being announced daily with more than 1,000 confirmed over the weekend. 


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It comes as a survey carried out by NUI Galway and Dublin City University showed a large number of people are skipping hospital or GP appointments, while pregnancy check-ups and vaccination appointments are also being postponed.

The survey from the Corona Citizen's Science Study was carried out on 35,000 people. It looks at the impact of the pandemic on daily life here.

Among the findings it identified that 32% of respondents (10,830 people) reported postponing medical treatment or check-ups. Of that group, more than half (55%) said this was because the healthcare professional was not seeing any patients at the moment.

Of these, 39% said they did not want to create extra pressure in the health system and 26% were concerned about the risk of contracting Covid-19.

The postponed treatment included GP consultations (48%), hospital medical examinations (14%)  and operations (6%). Some parents also reported postponing childhood vaccinations and pre- and post-natal check-ups.

Professor Anthony Staines from DCU told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that "there is a real concern that if we don't respond very quickly to the vaccinations, we could find ourselves with a major outbreak of measles in winter, which would be disastrous.

"The queues in the Irish health service, which were already high before all of this started, are now at a point where something dramatic needs to be done.

"We are going to need a major change in how we deliver healthcare".

Meanwhile, a consultant cardiologist at Bons Secours private hospital in Cork has said his practice has been completely upended as a result of the HSE deal to expand the capacity of the health service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cróchán O'Sullivan, who signed a contract to work for the HSE during the crisis, said his clinics had been booked up until the end of May, but these have all had to be deferred until September, as he is now employed by HSE.

Dr O'Sullivan said he is always happy to help out, particularly during a crisis, but that this contract was unilaterally imposed on consultants and no other deal that would allow them see a combination of public and private patients was offered.

He said his current patients could continue to see him but he will not be able to see them at the same level and there is a re-deployment clause in his new contract, which could make it difficult to plan his clinics.

Dr O'Sullivan said he has ongoing costs of €10,000 a month to maintain his rooms and his new contract means he is now going to have to work for a loss.

He said he is fortunate that he can work for a loss for a limited period of time but that it would not be sustainable in the long term.

The consultant cardiologist said that he and his colleagues would like a service level agreement to be reached to allow them treat public patients, while also continuing to treat their own patients. 

He added this is a bad deal for taxpayers because it is costing €115m a month and that he favours the compulsory insurance model.

Dr O'Sullivan said that there is going to be a backlog of non-Covid patients when this crisis is over and urged patients feeling symptoms of chest pain to continue to call their doctor or present at the Emergency Department.