Date published: 
7 April 2020
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

The first GP-led rural respiratory clinic in Victoria funded as part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion health package to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak has begun today in Mildura.

Federal Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton and Member for Mallee, Dr Anne Webster welcomed the news that Australia’s second rural respiratory clinic was now helping patients in the Mallee.

Minister Coulton said the Mildura clinic was one of up to 100 dedicated respiratory clinics to be set up across Australia as part of the Australian Government’s response to the outbreak.

“I want to assure regional Australians that our number one priority is supporting communities to be prepared and respond to COVID-19,” he said.

“This clinic will help to reduce pressure on the hospital’s emergency department and allow other general practices in the area to treat people who aren’t showing COVID-19 symptoms.

“That’s why we are putting in place a range of measures including additional practice incentives and expanding telehealth to enable the rural medical workforce to continue to care for rural people.

“The best defence for COVID-19 remains good hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette and staying at home, which is especially important to adhere to for the upcoming Easter break.”

Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster said the local clinic is well placed to support people with fever, cough, sore throat, and other respiratory symptoms and avoiding the risk of infection in the communities.

“I’m pleased that the Murray PHN, Sunraysia Community Health Service, Mildura Base Hospital, Ramsay Health Care, and local GPs have worked collaboratively with the Federal Government to deliver this important local clinic,” Dr Webster said.

“Due to our geographic isolation and distance from Melbourne, it’s vital that potential COVID-19 patients can be assessed and tested as soon as possible to prevent the further spread, which is exactly the service this clinic will provide.”

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

People should visit health.gov.au and use the online booking system to make an appointment.

BACKGROUND:

  • People with severe symptoms should call 000 and/or attend the nearest hospital emergency department.
  • People with mild to moderate respiratory symptoms will need to make an appointment either online via booking links available at health.gov.au or over the phone if the clinic has made a local phone booking arrangement available. It is important that people attend the clinic only at the time of their booking so that social distancing can be maintained, and they may be asked to wait in their car until the clinic is ready to receive them.
  • People will be assessed by a GP or a nurse under the supervision of a GP and have a specimen taken for pathology testing if that is indicated.
  • Regardless of whether a test is undertaken, the person will receive clinical advice on how to manage their symptoms and an initial follow-up phone call or text message with test results and to check on how they are going.
  • After people have visited the clinic, they will remain eligible to continue to consult their regular GP using the MBS telehealth items.