The new system for referring patients for COVID-19 testing has crashed on its first day.
The new online system was set up to make it easier for doctors to order tests.
Doctors all around the company have been flooded with calls from people looking to get tested – with GP out-of-hours services fielding huge numbers of calls over the weekend.
The Health Minister Simon Harris is appealing to people to only contact their doctor for testing if they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
“It is a massive body of work we are asking our GPs, our health care professionals and the HSE to deliver and we need all of us to be responsible in relation to that,” he said.
“Keep your GP slots for people who really need them, be patient with your GP who is under a lot of pressure when you phone them and obviously a test is only required when you have symptoms – not because you would like one.”
Early morning briefing on #COVIDー19 with the Minister @SimonHarrisTD in our Operations room. I'm so proud of the HSE at this time. Our frontline healthcare workers, GPs, & central teams have been working throughout the weekend. We really value the public's support. @HSELive pic.twitter.com/pSQjTEZ3h7
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) March 16, 2020
He said around 4,500 people rang 999 looking for a COVID-19 test over the weekend.
“That is not an appropriate thing to do, it is not a necessary thing to do and you cannot get a test by ringing 999,” he said.
“What you are actually doing is preventing people who may need to make an emergency call actually accessing it as quickly as they can.”
It’s a new week, let’s make a renewed effort - all of us -to comply with public health advice. The countries which have succeeded the most in “flattening the curve” of #coronavirus are the ones which have seen people follow the advice in full. Follow the advice & save lives pic.twitter.com/XULx5upzYs
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) March 16, 2020
He urged people to be mindful of the pressure doctors are under when contacting them.
“Our GPs are working flat out but the level of demand is very, very high,” he said.
“You can’t order a test yourself. It needs to be on the recommendation of a GP.
“Please bear with your GPs who are working extraordinarily hard. We are setting up testing centres around the country today where our GPs will refer you to a testing centre.
So yes, this is going to take a bit of time but everyone is working really, really hard and is really flat out on it.”
Doctors are urging people who don’t have symptoms to check the HSE website for information.