Irish people postponing GP visits during pandemic is ‘particularly worrisome’

27 Apr 2020277 Views

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A new national psychological survey has raised concerns that Irish people are putting themselves at risk by not visiting their GP due to Covid-19.

A new survey of more than 35,000 respondents has suggested that a significant portion of people in Ireland are putting off GP visits during the coronavirus pandemic. The findings are part of a population-wide survey conducted by research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University (DCU) and the SFI Insight Centre for Data Analytics to study the impact of restrictive measures on daily life.

Nearly one-third (10,830) of the respondents reported postponing medical treatment or check-ups. Of that number, 55pc said that was because their healthcare professional wasn’t seeing patients at the moment, 39pc said they didn’t want to add extra pressure to the health system, and 26pc said they were concerned of contracting Covid-19.

The postponed treatment included GP consultations (48pc), hospital medical examinations (14pc) and operations (6pc). Some parents taking part in the survey said they had postponed childhood vaccinations and pre- and postnatal check-ups, with some also stopping fertility treatment.

Dr Akke Vellinga of NUI Galway, who was joint research lead, said: “The postponement of GP appointments in particular is worrisome, and people should not put off calling their GP when they are worried about something.”

When asked about their current health, 3pc (1,200) of respondents said they had experienced flu-like symptoms in the past two weeks, down from 6pc in the team’s previous survey. Of those with flu-like symptoms, almost half (48pc) thought it was Covid-19, but only 42pc said they had contacted their GP about it.

‘Important treatment is being delayed’

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Of these patients who contacted their GP, 27pc were referred for testing, down from 36pc in the previous survey. One-quarter of these tests returned a positive result, 42pc were negative, 17pc were awaiting results and 5pc were waiting to be tested.

Prof Anthony Staines of DCU, another joint research lead on the study, said: “Important treatment is being delayed, and there will need to be a clear path to fixing this before queues in our healthcare system become intolerable.”

On the topic of the 2km limit on movement for exercise, half of respondents said they would like to see it removed, followed by removing limitations on small gatherings. Returning to work was also ranked as a higher priority than the reopening of shops, pubs and restaurants.

While the researchers said that age groups were well represented in the study with a median age of 45, the breakdown was overwhelmingly female at 71pc, versus 29pc male. The team’s previous survey found that only 65pc of respondents said they would accept a potential Covid-19 vaccine for themselves or their children, which one researcher described as “worryingly low”.

Updated, 6pm, 27 April 2020: A previous version of this article stated that 55pc of those surveyed said their GP wasn’t seeing patients at the moment. This was updated to clarify that 55pc of those surveyed said their healthcare provider wasn’t seeing patients.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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