Health services not prepared for increased Covid-19 contact research when schools reopen: report
The GGD health services in the Netherlands aren't prepared to do more so-called contact research, to find out exactly who a patient with Covid-19 had contact with and warn them that they may also be infected, once primary schools reopen on Monday. Most GGDs are working on their own plans to increase their capacity, but they are not sure what exactly is expected of them as there is no national plan for contact research, NOS reports after surveying all 24 GGD regions.
The GGDs are dependent on national instructions for implementing their plans to expand their capacity. A GGD working group is currently working with the Ministry of Public Health and health institute RIVM on a plan for more contact research. But when this plan will be ready, and when Health Minister Hugo de Jonge will give the go ahead, is anyone's guess, according to the broadcaster.
Most GGDs have long since stopped active contact research, as the number of Covid-19 diagnoses in the Netherlands skyrocketed. They had insufficient manpower to handle this research, and the national coronavirus instructions already stated that anyone with symptoms must stay home. Almost all GGDs now do passive contact research - people who test positive are given a standard letter, or a link to that letter on the RIVM site, and told to pass it on to everyone they had contact with.
"It is of course more effective if GGDs do that research themselves, instead of leaving it to the people," Christian Hoebe, infections disease control physician at GGD Zuid-Limburg, said to NOS. "Many will take it seriously, but perhaps not everyone." But for the GGDs to do that research themselves, much more manpower is needed, because the contact research is a massive task. "In the beginning we needed about 10 to 15 hours per case," Hoebe said. "That is less now because many people know about the coronavirus. Let's say four hours per study. That still means a lot of hours and so people."
The GGDs are ready to scale up and expand their capacity for contact research, but are waiting for the national go-ahead. "We need a decision on a nationwide plan, so we can really get started," Hoebe said.
GGD Hollands Midden already trained 40 people who can start doing contact research immediately, according to NOS. The others are looking at their own staff that usually perform other tasks, Red Cross employees, medical students, or retired doctors and nurses - all people who can start after two days of training.