Respiratory clinics will be set up in Gippsland

RESPIRATORY clinics will be established across regional areas, including Gippsland.

The first GP-led rural respiratory clinic established as part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion health package to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak opened in Emerald, Queensland, on Wednesday.

Federal Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said “strong progress” was being made on the government’s commitment to establish up to 100 GP-led respiratory clinics around the country to assess patients with mild to moderate COVID-19-like symptoms.

“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,” Mr Coulton 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.”

Mr Coulton said the respiratory clinics would 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.

Local respiratory clinics will enable people with symptoms to receive medical advice and get tested if they meet the eligibility criteria, without posing a risk to other patients in clinics who may be seeing GPs for non-COVID19 related reasons.

Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine president Dr Ewen McPhee said 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 outbreaks.

“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,” he said.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr John Hall also welcomed the establishment of the clinics.

“They are important, because they will help 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.”

Mr Coulton said the government was working with local GPs and Aspen Medical, which had significant health emergency management experience in Australia and overseas, to mobilise and roll out the clinics.

The government is establishing clinics across Australia, including in regional areas such as the Riverina, Gippsland, Central Victoria, New South Wales north coast, Western Queensland, Darling Downs, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

The National Rural Health Commissioner is helping mobilise sites in regional areas of South Australia and Western Australia.

Additionally, more than 160 fever clinics, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments, are also in operation across Australia.

To access a GP respiratory clinic, people can visit health.gov.au and use the online booking system.