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GHA deploys additional staff in ‘cautious’ move to tackle post-Covid backlog

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Extra staff will be deployed to the Primary Care Centre this week and more GPs hours have been allocated to help tackle the backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Acting Medical Director Dr Krishna Rawal has said.

Speaking to GBC, Dr Rawal apologised to those who are “rightly very frustrated” at having found the process of accessing appointments and prescriptions difficult.

“It must be very difficult when you desperately need your medication or you desperately need a review and you quite simply cannot find a solution to do it, it must be very frustrating,” he said.

“The problem, of course, is we have gone into a Covid situation where we have actively kept people away from Primary Care and from the hospital generally.”

“Many people will recall about two months ago we had a cluster of cases in the dental department, for example.”

“By definition, healthcare settings are high-risk so we’ve been trying to keep people away.”

Dr Rawal further explained that amid lockdown and the closure of other government counters, the GHA was able to draft in additional help to man the telephone lines, for example in the repeat prescription service.

As Gibraltar moved out of lockdown, he explained, those government officers were redeployed back to their departments and by mid-July, primary care was back to a pre-Covid staffing level but with a post-Covid surge in demand.

To improve the situation, Dr Rawal explained resources will be increased to tackle the backlog.

“We're getting more staff… and we redeployed some of our GHA staff into those areas to answer phones and emails,” he said.

“I’ve dedicated extra GP time, so many of my GPs are doing extra work to catch up on the back-log.”

“I’ve also dedicated locum GPs to concentrate purely on repeat prescriptions, [and] we’re reintroducing the My GHA digital telephone service again.”

“Please be patient with this just a little bit longer and be reassured that we are absolutely doing our best to solve the problems.”

On Friday, after the GSD raised concerns about the resumption of routine medical services after the Covid-19 lockdown, the Gibraltar Government said such services were being “cautiously expanded.”

“The Government considers the safety of GHA staff and patients to be of paramount importance, and the move back to normal services at the GHA must be taken slowly and with a flexible approach, within the full context of an ongoing global pandemic,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“This means that services cannot simply be fully restored in keeping with a pre-set deadline, without constant reassessments of the situation locally, regionally and globally.”

“The Government assures the public that plans for the restoration of full services at the GHA are in place, and patients can expect to see provision for face-to-face appointments and the return of established booking systems for the Primary Care Centre shortly.”

“The Government wholeheartedly thanks the staff and clinicians throughout the GHA for their dedication throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and their hard work to restore services for patients as soon as possible and as safely as possible.”

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