Doctors are urging the HSE to extend free COVID-19 testing across nights and weekends.
Currently anyone who comes down with COVID-19 symptoms is entitled to a free phone consultation and test.
However, people who experience symptoms on weekends or outside of regular doctor hours are charged for the consultation.
The situation is fuelling concerns people will put off seeking a test until they can access their GP for free.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Monaghan GP Illona Duffy said doctors have already raised the issue with the HSE.
“This is something that has been highlighted with the HSE but seems to have been forgotten about,” she said.
“So, I think this tweet has helped highlight this as a gap and we are hoping that perhaps the HSE are going to listen and provide funding.”
A friend of mine in #Kildare developed #Covid19 symptoms on Fri night, followed advice & called #KDoc out of hours service on Sat morning for assessment. She was referred for a test but charged €50. Surely that cost will be prohibitive for some who will delay coming forward?
— Susan Keogh (@susankeoghnews) August 9, 2020
Dr Duffy said said out-of-hours services were not allowed to refer people for COVID testing in the early weeks of the outbreak.
She said the HSE introduced an out-of-hours referral service to ensure people would not be left waiting for testing but “forgot that people would have to pay for that.”
“It is unfortunate that this had to come via the media and via twitter before it is highlighted and before hopefully the HSE will listen,” she said.
“Because they have to listen. We want to keep a lid on the cases; we want to identify them at an early stage
“And also, if we have the centres open on the weekend and on a Monday morning, we want to be sure people are coming in and we are not all focused on the four or five days midweek as they happen.”
She said anyone who was charged a fee for a phone consultation during normal GP hours should contact their doctor and complain.
"It can sometimes have been an error and it can sometimes be an automatic bill going out through a computer system,” she said. “But you should not be charged by your GP if you are ringing purely about a COVID symptom.”
You can listen back to the full interview here: