EVERYONE must do their part to support healthcare professionals in the fight to stop the spread of Covid-19, says Health Minister Robin Swann.
Mr Swann was speaking as he visited the first Primary Care Covid-19 centre at Altnagelvin hospital site today.
More centres will open in the coming days, with at least one Covid-19 centre in each Trust area.
Minister Swann said: “Primary Care Covid-19 Centres are an essential part of the fight against this virus. To ensure vital GP services can be maintained throughout the coming weeks and months, it is absolutely critical that those who show symptoms are separated from the patients with non Covid-19 related conditions.
“Covid-19 centres are not testing facilities and are only for patients who are very unwell, are suspected of having Covid-19 and require medical attention. Patients will not be able to report directly to these centres without being referred by their GP or Out of Hours provider.
“Whilst the centres will help to free up GP services to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital we balance this with the need for primary care services to continue with the minimum of disruption.”
Patients attending these centres will receive appropriate treatment, assessment and, if necessary, onward referral to hospital.
Dr Tom Black, Chair of the BMA in Northern Ireland, is among the GPs working at the new Primary Care Covid-19 Centre at Altnagelvin. He said: “GPs have organised themselves very quickly and there has been a huge amount of work done between the Department of Health, the Health and Social Care Board, Trusts and GP Federations to provide the community with these Covid-19 centres.
“This method of GPs working in the middle ground is vital to protect hospital services for patients with the greatest need. I have no doubt that this work will save lives.”
Concluding, the Health Minister said: “I want to pay tribute to the vision, rapid action and commitment shown by our primary care doctors. Without hesitation, they have risen to meet this unprecedented challenge. On behalf of everyone in our community I want to thank them for the hugely important work they are doing.
“We must all now do our part to support these healthcare professionals in the fight to stop the spread of this virus. The message is clear - stay home, protect yourself and protect others so that the Health Service can protect us all.”