1 April 2020

Rural docs open first bush COVID clinic

Communicable Disease COVID-19 General Practice Rural

The first GP-led rural respiratory clinic will open today in Emerald, Queensland, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Federal Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton has announced.

The clinic will open as a part of the government’s $206.7 million commitment to start as many as 100 GP-led COVID-19 respiratory clinics around Australia to help patients access care for mild to moderate symptoms.

The respiratory clinics will operate in addition to the 160 fever clinics already being established, which are funded jointly by the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments.

Minister Coulton said while the respiratory clinic in Emerald was not expected to be seeing a high volume of COVID-19 patients in the short term, it was a strategic move to ensure local doctors could lead the response and preparation needed to keep their communities safe.

“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,” he said.

“The clinics will help to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments and other general practice clinics.”

Patients who wish to access a GP respiratory clinic must use the online booking system on health.gov.au.

The clinics will then help individuals with symptoms to receive appropriate medical advice and, if necessary, get tested for COVID-19 without posing an infection risk to other patients.

These clinics will then enable other patients, who need to see their GP for a non-COVID-19 reason, to do so with minimal risk.

ACRRM President and Rural Generalist, Dr Ewen McPhee, said the GP and mobile respiratory clinics were a welcome addition to health services in rural and remote communities and would help ease the pressure on local doctors and existing health services when responding to the outbreak.

“Rural doctors are on the frontline 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,” he said.

Other regional locations which will see the establishment of a designated COVID-19 clinic include the Riverina, Gippsland, Central Victoria, NSW North Coast, Western Queensland, Darling Downs, and also locations in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Dr John Hall, President of the RDAA, said the clinics would be important in helping rural doctors and their communities to better cope with outbreaks of COVID-19 in rural locations.

“Ensuring these clinics are also distributed in rural areas will mean that rural Australians can get access to this vital service as well,” he said.

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