A GP says many doctors are worried about how quiet parts of the health system are amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the public are being urged to continue to contact and see their doctor whenever needed for conditions unrelated to COVID-19.
Dr Mark Murphy, a GP based in Dublin and spokesperson for the Irish College of General Practitioners, told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh there are concerns that some people may not be seeking the medical attention they need.
He explained: “You cannot ignore your medical concerns - mental health conditions, a skin rash, chronic health conditions like diabetes…
"I know in my practice we’re vaccinating babies, doing antenatal checks… all the normal stuff is taking place - [but] we’re worrisomely quiet at the moment, and that is a concern.”
Dr Murphy said that while places like nursing homes are under pressure at the moment, other parts of the healthcare system are quiet.
He explained: "There are wards that are almost empty in hospitals, and there are GP practices where we’re just sitting at our desk, waiting to receive a phone call.
“General practice is open, and available to all patients. Patients should just phone us if they have any concern about their health.
“It’s really important that the public do not feel they are a burden on the health system. We’re worried about the early stages of disease… the earlier you are seen the better."
He also stressed that GPs will be wearing protective gear when seeing patients, so it's "entirely safe" for patients to attend the practice if needed.
In terms of COVID-19 specifically, Dr Murphy said the demand for testing is down in many areas.
He explained: “A few weeks ago, we were getting dozens of calls with multiple persons with COVID-19 in the south inner city… most of those could not be tested because they did not meet the criteria.
“Really the clinical syndrome of COVID-19 at the moment… many practices are just getting one call a day. I would be hopeful the capacity is there for [testing]... and it needs to be if we want to move into a phase where we can eliminate COVID-19. But hopefully that capacity will not be needed."
Testing criteria is due to be expanded next week, and Dr Murphy said he is not hopeful the system will be perfect immediately.
However, he observed: "I do have faith that in the coming weeks we will have a responsive system of testing and contact tracing. There will be other measures that will be needed… [but] testing and contact tracing is the core part of trying to identify and contain the spread of the virus.
“Whilst [some people] have been waiting sometimes up to three weeks to get a result… that’s emblematic of what was happening three to four weeks ago. I think we’re in a different situation now."