BITS Medical Centre staff Dr Melisa Ng, Dr Richard Gaiger and Amber Isenbert at the respiratory clinic that will be used as COVID-19 testing facility.
BITS Medical Centre staff Dr Melisa Ng, Dr Richard Gaiger and Amber Isenbert at the respiratory clinic that will be used as COVID-19 testing facility.

'The only way’: Local clinic’s role in COVID response

A local medical centre will play a crucial role in Gladstone's coronavirus response as the federal government ramps up testing and restrictions begin to lift.

From Monday, a respiratory clinic at BITS Medical Centre at Boyne Island will be operational and capable of testing up to 32 patients each day.

The clinic has been set up in an external building with separate entry and exit doors to minimise exposure between patients.

Practice Manager Nicole Dickhaut is advising people with mild repository complaints or fever to get a test and said increasing the testing rate was critical as the Government progressively allowed more freedom.

"That's the only way we can move a little bit more freely while distancing and know that we're safe," she said.

People with a fever or acute symptoms such as a cough or sore throat  can make a booking to get tested by calling BITS reception.

 

A registration form will be sent to their phones and they will be able to schedule an appointment for a nose and throat swab.

Diagnosis generally takes a few days and after they receive their results ongoing care responsibility will fall to the patient's usual doctor.

People with symptoms are advised to stay in isolation until they feel better.

"Even if your COVID-19 test result comes back negative, you do still need to self-isolate as long as you have respiratory symptoms," Ms Dickhaut said.

People returning from overseas and certain interstate "hot spots" must self quarantine for 14 days and Ms Dickhaut said that a work clearance could not be given for returning travellers without symptoms. 

"When you have no symptoms at all a test will not exclude that you might develop COVID-19," she said.

There has been a significant reduction in the number of patients presenting with cold and flu symptoms since social distancing measures have been in place, and Ms Dickhaut expected to see an increase as people began to move around and return to work.

Last month Australia secured an additional 10 million COVID-19 test kits and pathology equipment through a partnership with private providers and billionaire Andrew Forrest's Minderoo Foundation.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the additional test kits would represent close to a 20 fold increase in testing between now and the end of the year.

"Our approach to testing in Australia, already one of the highest rates per capita in the world, has been a vital part of our success in flattening the infection curve," he said.

"As we move to the next stage of our recovery, further expanding testing capacity and case ascertainment is one of the three critical steps we can take to protect Australians, avoid further spikes in community transmission and assist in easing restrictions."