Australian first COVID-19 clinic opens in Emerald
THE first GP-led rural respiratory clinic in regional Australia opened in Emerald today to help reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments.
The free clinic, set up outside the Emerald Medical Group, was designed to assess patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms as part of the Australian government’s $2.4 billion health package.
People with relevant symptoms will receive the appropriate medical advice and get tested, without posing a risk to other patients in the clinic who may be seeing their GP for a non-COVID-19 related reason.
President of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, Dr Ewen McPhee said it was great to open the clinic today, which would be taking appointments from 1pm.
“GP and mobile respiratory clinics are a welcome addition to health services in rural and remote communities and will help ease the pressure on local doctors and existing health services when responding to the outbreak,” Dr McPhee said.
“Rural doctors are on the front line in their communities fighting this pandemic and I’m very pleased at the rate in which these local clinics can be established with support from Aspen Medical and the Department of Health.”
Federal Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said the Emerald clinic was one of 100 GP-led clinics expected to open across the country as part of the $2.4 billion health package.
“While the pandemic is not widespread in regional areas as yet, it’s important we have local doctors leading the local response and preparation for their communities,” he said.
“The clinics will help to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments and other general practice clinics.
“I want to assure regional Australians that our number one priority is protecting and supporting communities through COVID-19.
“These respiratory clinics will be best placed to support people with a fever, a cough, a sore throat, and other respiratory symptoms and help to minimise the risk of infection in the communities.”
Mr Coulton said additional clinics in rural locations would open in the coming weeks.
“We are focused on ensuring rural and regional communities are prepared to respond to this pandemic,” he said.
“That’s why we are putting in place a range of measures including additional practice incentives and the expansion of telehealth to enable the rural medical workforce to continue to care for rural people.”
Although there are no confirmed cases locally, Dr McPhee says people should act as though the virus is already here.
“I think the thing is, complacency is going to kill,” he said.
“The things that will save Emerald and the Central Highlands is people who follow advice.”
He said people should stay home, don’t gather in groups, regularly wash hands and stay 1.5m away from other people.
“It’s not the clinic that will save this community, it’s people doing the right thing that will save this community,” Dr McPhee said.
The Government is investing $206.7 million to establish up to 100 respiratory clinics across Australia, including in rural and regional areas in each state and territory.
To access a GP respiratory clinic, visit health.gov.au and use the online booking system.