The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) tested health care systems worldwide. This qualitative study aimed to explore and understand the experiences, beliefs and concerns of Primary Care Professionals (PCPs) regarding the preparedness and response of primary care to the first wave of the pandemic in Greece, a country where a public structured primary care system has been developing.
We conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with 33 PCPs (General Practitioners, community General Internal Medicine Specialists, community Paediatricians and nurses) recruited from all regions of Greece after the first wave of the pandemic (June 2020). Interviews were transcribed verbatim, data were anonymised and analysed. Thematic analysis was applied developing a conceptual framework.
Four main themes were identified: a) Primary care unit adaptation and issues faced during the pandemic; b) Management of suspected COVID-19 cases; c) Management of non-suspected cases; d) Consequences of the pandemic. In the first phase of the pandemic, remote management of suspected cases and their referral to the hospital were preferred as a result of a shortage of personal protective equipment and inaccessibility to coronavirus testing in primary care. Due to the discontinuation of regular medical services and the limited in-person contact between doctors and patients, chronic disease management and prevention programmes were left behind. Social and emotional consequences of the pandemic, such as workplace stigma, isolation and social seclusion, deriving from fear of viral transmission, as well as burnout symptoms and exhaustion were commonly experienced among PCPs. Positive consequences of the pandemic were considered to be the recognition of the importance of an empowered public healthcare system by citizens and the valuable insight, knowledge and experience professionals gained in times of crisis.
Primary care has a key role to play during and after the pandemic by using its information infrastructure to identify at-risk groups, detect new cases of COVID-19, provide care according to needs, and carry out vaccination programmes. Central coordination and empowerment of primary care will increase its effectiveness, via public awareness, holistic patient management, and unburdening of hospitals.

© 2021. The Author(s).