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100th GP-led respiratory clinic established by Aspen Medical opens in regional NSW

The 100th GP-led respiratory clinic to be established by Aspen Medical on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Health opened today in Mudgee, New South Wales, as part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion health response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since the first GP-led respiratory clinics opened in Macquarie Park and Morayfield on the 21st March, more than 100 clinics have since opened around the country to assess and test patients with mild to moderate COVID-19-like symptoms, reducing pressure on hospital emergency departments and local general practices.

Clinics in Wodonga and Morwell in Victoria; and Hazelbrook in NSW also opened today.

“While Australians and our wonderful health professionals have done an outstanding job of containing the virus so far, we need to be prepared for further cases,” Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said.

“With 100 GP-led respiratory clinics open across all states, with more on the way, we will be extremely well-prepared to stamp out any new outbreaks, wherever they occur.

“In collaboration with the states and territories, these clinics have been rolled out extremely fast since the initiative was announced on 11 March.

“This has only been possible because of the dedication and professionalism of our GPs, their staff and their representative organisations, all of whom deserve our thanks.”

Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton said the clinics are helping to ensure rural patients with mild respiratory issues could see a doctor, without putting other patients at risk, almost half of the clinics are located in regional, rural or remote areas.

“Regional Australians are doing a brilliant job of protecting their communities by following the advice of experts, however if you have a fever, cough, sore throat or other respiratory symptoms, I urge you to make an appointment at one of these clinics to get tested,” he said.

“Regional people and communities must remain vigilant as we see the number of cases decline and continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing.

“It’s equally important that people keep appointments and continue to consult their doctor without delay if they have a non-COVID related health issues.

“I’ve convened regular roundtables to ensure our response recognises the unique challenges in rural and remote areas, and I acknowledge the work of the Rural Health Commissioner supporting local doctors to establish these GP clinics.

Included in the 100 operational clinics are nine Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS)-led clinics. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are significantly overrepresented in the high-risk categories for COVID-19 - including through a much higher burden of respiratory and other chronic diseases. A further seven ACCHS-led clinics are being offered contracts.

“It is critical that respiratory Clinics are easily accessible to ensure safe and culturally supportive screening and follow-up care management,” Minister Hunt said.

Aspen Medical devised thorough infection prevention and control protocols at the respiratory clinics to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. The clinics provide assessments and testing for all people with symptoms to detect cases and allow them to be isolated as early as possible.

Patients attending a GP-led respiratory clinic should make a booking via the online booking system on www.health.gov.au or by phoning their nearest clinic.

Image: Aspen Medical - Project Director Leo Cusack (right) at the opening of the first rural GP-led respiratory clinic in Wagga Wagga on 15 April 2020