Infectious diseases consultants have warned of the risk of a major patient safety issue regarding the Health Service Executive’s plans for providing new treatments against Covid-19.
The Infectious Diseases Society of Ireland accuses the HSE of acting prematurely on plans to provide antivirals and monoclonal antibodies to patients at risk of serious Covid-19 illness.
In a letter to senior HSE officials, the society claims the HSE told GPs pathways had already been formalised and agreed for the delivery of the new treatments “when that was not the case”.
The letter also complains about the “inappropriate sharing” of personal phone numbers of clinicians and the listing of contact numbers for sites that remain “unmanned and unaware” that the initiative is to commence “immediately”.
HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry wrote to GPs on February 18th saying a number of new therapeutic agents to treat Covid-19 were “available or becoming available”. Dr Henry warned that while supplies to Ireland appeared adequate, continuing stewardship would be needed to ensure treatment was targeted on those most likely to benefit.
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Responding, the society welcomed the plans to roll out the new treatments but added that it had patient safety concerns. Because some of the therapies had to be administered within a short time of a person falling ill, access to PCR testing was “crucial”, it said, so resources would have to be made available outside of hospital pathways to ensure they were tested as quickly as possible.
According to the society, many sites lack the resources to deliver the service in the manner announced by the HSE. “We are striving to address this issue as a matter of urgency. It is, however, inaccurate to inform community colleagues that a service exists out of hours and at weekends when this is currently not the case.
“This could pose a major patient safety issue. Additional resources will be required at several sites to deliver this service safely in the manner in which the correspondence has intimated.”
The infectious diseases doctors say many high-risk patients are already well-known to hospital specialist teams, which can liaise with colleagues to organise treatment with the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab.
They call for “clearer and more timely communication” with the society and other medical colleagues tasked with providing the new service. “N