Doctors’ surgeries will be open once again from Monday May 4 for non-urgent consultations, but things will not be as they were before.
Open consultations are no longer allowed – times of day when patients can turn up without an appointment and wait their turn. In future, consultations are by appointment only.
Many practices now allow appointments to be made online, but the family doctors’ association Domus Medica is asking that patients call by phone first, to allow the doctor to decide if a consultation is really necessary, or whether another solution – such as providing a repeat prescription directly to the patient’s pharmacy – is available.
Doctors are not expecting a major rush for appointments now that the possibility is open again. “We think that there is still a good deal of fear among people of coming in contact with a medical setting,” said Roel Van Giel of Domus Medica. We will take every possible measure to make it happen safely, but I doubt whether everyone will call their doctor again on Monday.”
GPs were supposed to be able to test patients for the coronavirus from Monday, but it now looks like that deadline will not be met all over. And doctors still have unanswered questions. Do they test all patients or only those with symptoms – and what symptoms exactly? Will there be protective equipment available?
In the waiting room, the rules on social distancing have to be followed, so the furniture is likely to have changed. Doctors will also adjust their schedules to avoid as far as possible having patients waiting together in the waiting room. They should also allow time between consultations for disinfecting surfaces and equipment.
Reading materials and toys for children will be removed, as they are risky vehicles for contamination. And cash payments are to be discouraged, which may be a problem for many doctors who remain unequipped with electronic payment terminals.
Finally, house calls are possible, but doctors are advised to apply strict hygiene measures to reduce as far as possible the risk of contamination for both doctor and patient.