GPs will no longer be paid to refer patients to a HSE community test centre for a Covid-19 test from tomorrow.
The emergency measures introduced in March 2020 where remote consultations, referrals to community testing centres and Covid-19 respiratory clinic consultations were provided free of charge will cease, the Department of Health has said.
It is part of a previously flagged Government policy change to move from a response-based on testing and tracing infection, to a mitigation system focused on reducing the impact of the disease on those who are most vulnerable.
The Department of Health said that any private patients attending their GP will be subject to the normal consultation fees.
Patients with GP Visit Cards and Medical Cards will not be affected by the change.
GPs will no longer refer patients to one of the 29 community testing centres, but the self-referral portal for the public for a test at these centres will remain open.
GPs will be paid a new €55 fee by the HSE to cover consultations with vulnerable patients for whom the GP requires the result of a Covid-19 test to help with the diagnosis and management of the patient.
This might include the prescription of the Covid-19 antiviral medicine Paxlovid.
This drug can be considered for people who are vaccinated and aged 75 or older, or vaccinated and aged 65 or older with additional risk factors.
GPs can also test vulnerable patients during consultations where clinically required to diagnose and treat Covid-19, instead of referring the patient to a HSE test centre.
Following recent changes, Covid-19 testing is no longer advised for the majority of people.
Those currently identified as at the highest risk from Covid-19 are people who are immunocompromised and have a weak immune system, people who have not been fully vaccinated and are aged 65 or older and those who have not been fully vaccinated and have additional risk factors.
The public health guidelines are that anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 should continue to self-isolate until 48 hours after symptoms have substantially or fully resolved.