Contracting the coronavirus: how would GPs react and what’s the procedure

Rayana Zapryanova

With the coronavirus already spreading in Ireland, what would happen logistically if someone were to contract the disease?

“Medically we’re prepared but it takes more than medical preparedness to control the spread of this illness,” Dr Lawrence Lau from the Capel Street Medical Centre said.

“If someone comes in and they’re worried about coronavirus, we would advise them to go home straight away and that they will get a phone consultation instead,” he explained.

Their receptionists are trained to ask certain questions in order to assess whether the patient can go inside, or if they should go home and get a consultation over the phone. There is a glass barrier to reduce risks of air droplet transmission.

“We are also installing onsite air purifiers with HEPA and UV filters to help reduce further risks of airborne transmissions. Although the benefit for battling coronavirus is debatable, something is better than nothing”

Regular hand sanitizer is also available to reduce risks.

If someone thinks they have contracted coronavirus, they shouldn’t go to their GP, he advises. Instead, they should consider booking a phone or video consultation. The GP would do a consultation over the phone and assesses the risk of you being infected.

Dr Lau and his colleagues at Capel Street Medical Centre have received many calls about coronavirus in the last few weeks.

People are on high alert and very considerate and cautious. Even when booking an appointment online, the patient would email or call first in order to check if they are safe to be seen at the medical centre.

“If we have someone coming in, and they think they have coronavirus, and we’ve got them in and there’s room full of other patients, we would have to advise patients to self-quarantine post visitation for 14 days,” Dr Lau said.

“We would have to close the medical centre for possibly two days and have it professionally cleaned. But if a doctor or a receptionist is at risk of being a carrier of this virus, then they would have to, self-quarantine effectively causing the medical centre to close for 14 days.”

They have had patients that have recently visited high risk areas like China, northern Italy and Singapore. They had advised all of them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr Lau is currently discussing the option of personalised video consultations with an IT team.

So what would happen to an infected person, depending on the scenario? 

  • If they have traveled to high risk areas in the last 14 days and have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, they would be isolated and tested for COVID-19, according to HPSC.
  • If they feel well and have not been in contact with coronavirus however, they will be told to simply watch out for symptoms over the next 14 days and go on about your usual business.
  • If they did have close contact with a person who has coronavirus, they will be monitored for 14 days and be asked to isolate themselves (this includes not going to work). Dr Lau explained that a doctor will phone them daily to make sure they remain well and will give them a note to present to your employers.
  • If during the quarantine, they start having symptoms that seem to be getting worse – short breath, very high fever of unknown cause – they will get assessed over the phone. Their GP will then discuss the case with a public health consultant.
  • If the consultant deems the case legitimate, and they think there is a need for the patient to be isolated, and to investigate further, they will prepare a hospital ward.

The GP will write a letter of referral for the patient. They will call the National Ambulance Service and tell them that there’s a suspected case of coronavirus and therefore they would have to take special measures when they come.

They will bring the patient to the unit the hospital has prepared for them to be quarantined and get tested.

Rayana Zapryanova

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