First respiratory clinic launched in rural NSW

Doug Hendrie

15/04/2020 4:34:39 PM

Chair of RACGP Rural Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda volunteered to establish the coronavirus-testing clinic in Wagga Wagga.

Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda
Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda has called the respiratory clinic drive a ‘great initiative’.

Built in just four days – after getting approval from all doctors, nurses and practice staff – the dedicated respiratory clinic at Glenrock Country Practice is designed to keep people safe by testing anyone with flu-like symptoms away from the existing practice.  
Practice principal Associate Professor Shenouda told newsGP that respiratory clinics are key in controlling community transmission, now that cases from overseas have all but ended and social distancing has begun to flatten the curve.
‘The best way to control community transmission is through swabbing everyone who has flu-like symptoms, so you can easily identify those with [SARS CoV-2] and quarantine them so they do not infect others,’ he said.  
‘All patients who are high-risk with flu-like symptoms can be kept separate from the clinic. That means our doctors, nurses and staff are safe. Older people can feel safe coming to their GP.
‘GPs are doing an incredible job on the frontline of COVID-19 combating this virus, and the respiratory clinic in Wagga Wagga will make a real difference.’
To date, 46 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the local Murrumbidgee Local Health District, with 27 recovered and none in hospital.
If a severe case does present, GPs can refer direct from the respiratory clinic to a respiratory physician in the hospital, which has set up a separate coronavirus unit.
‘When the news came that we’d been selected to do this, I put it to the practice and all of them – nurses, receptionists, doctors – wanted to be involved,’ Associate Professor Shenouda said. ‘I chose the youngest and fittest for the respirator clinic so there was the least risk.
‘Everyone is in proper PPE [personal protective equipment] all the way through. If there’s no PPE, there’s no clinic.
‘We can see up to 60 patients a day if necessary, and can see two patients at once.
‘We take the swabs and wait for the results to come back. The results can be discussed with a doctor from the clinic, or we can send a summary to their regular doctor if the symptoms are mild.’
Associate Professor Shenouda called the respiratory clinic drive a ‘great initiative’.
‘I’m just so proud to be part of it. It does add risk to me and my staff, but it’s worthwhile doing to help manage this crisis that’s facing our country,’ he said.
Overseen by Aspen Medical, local builders and tradespeople built the temporary clinic in less than a week.
The $206 million respiratory clinic program is part of the Federal Government’s $2.4 billion health response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy Prime Minister and local member Michael McCormack commended Associate Professor Shenouda for his work getting the respiratory clinic operational.
‘[Associate Professor Shenouda] has been at the forefront of making sure regional Australians live healthy lives and get through this challenging time,’ he said. ‘I commend the work he has done to help get this clinic up and running. I know the local community will be extremely grateful.
‘The local clinics will help to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments and other general practices.’
To access respiratory clinics, patients with mild-to-moderate respiratory symptoms will need to make an appointment online or on the phone to the hosting practice if available. 
Respiratory clinics operate on a social-distancing model, meaning patients may be asked to stay in their cars until the clinic is ready.
Following the test, the patient will receive advice on how to manage their symptoms alongside their test results.
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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Dr Derek Kevin Bell   16/04/2020 8:55:21 AM

This may be the first clinic launched under the Aspen banner, but it certainly isn't the first rural respiratory clinic launched in NSW. Here in Bellingen we've had a clinic running since 17th March with no funding from state or Commonwealth. There's also one in Cowra, and undoubtedly others elsewhere. We applied for Federal funding also (a month ago), but unfortunately our local Member of Parliament isn't the Deputy Prime Minister. That said, I'm pleased to see that these Aspen-led clinics are finally being established to the benefit of rural Australians.