There are concerns the recent Strep A outbreak may lead to shortage of antibiotics, a top medic has warned.
The IMO's Dr Denis McCauley said concerns over the surge in infections has seen patients seek treatment earlier than usual.
“Almost 80 to 90 per cent of all respiratory illnesses can be self-managed and I think most people would’ve stayed at home with their child for two to three days for the temperature to sort of resolve,” he told RTE's Morning Ireland. “But I think the fear associated with the Strep-A has made patients and parents more inclined to attend early and as a result of that…negotiations with patients about the need for antibiotics is much harder.
“So therefore there are more antibiotics being prescribed, and therefore there is a relative shortage from time to time.” He added that the shortage “seems to vary from days of the week”.
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Dr McCauley also said that his local hospital in Co Donegal – Letterkenny University Hospital – is under a 'code black’ emergency "96 per cent of the time", because they don’t have the capacity to deal with patients with flu and other winter viruses.
The IMO has announced temporary support measures for the nationwide rising demand on GPs due to the prevalence of influenza, Covid-19 and other respiratory illness. Meanwhile the Health Service Executive has established a National Crisis Management Team to oversee the response to the surge of winter virus infections, which is expected to bring increased pressure on the health service in the coming weeks.
The IMO will work with the HSE to provide support for GPs to run additional clinics. The organisation also said GPs may schedule extended or additional clinics on weekday evenings from 5pm to 7pm and between 9am and 1pm on Saturdays. However, Dr McCauley said he was "unsure" how many GPs would volunteer for the scheme, citing capacity issues.
He added that many GPs are at risk of burn-out after such a long period of intense demand on doctors. 700 patients were in hospital with Covid-19, according to figures from yesterday, 32 of whom were in intensive care.
When asked about their response to antibiotics shortage, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told Dublin Live that the Health Products Regulatory Authority are coordinating the management of medicine shortages on the Irish market, and are trying to ensure equitable distribution of antibiotics. Pharmacists in Ireland are also allowed to change a named product to a generic interchangeable version, provided it is therapeutically appropriate.
At the same time, the European Medicines Agency is dealing with the shortages impacting the EU and is currently liaising directly with major suppliers to increase production of antibiotics in short supply. The Department of Health is also warning that misuse and overuse of antimicrobials are the main drivers in the development of drug-resistant pathogens, and the WHO has declared that Antimicrobial resistance is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.
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