New facilities to take the pressure off hospital emergency departments
A planned roll-out of 20 GP-run respiratory clinics across Melbourne got underway this week – helping to take the strain off hospitals facing predicted surges in COVID-19 and influenza cases.
Five clinics are now operating, with the rest opening over the next few weeks.
The facilities, which will be open seven days a week and after-hours, are being set up through a process run by three Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
Funded by a $23 million investment by the Victorian Government, they will enable hundreds of people each week to access testing and respiratory assessment close to home for COVID-19 and other conditions such as influenza and thunderstorm asthma.
The full complement of clinics will be in the local government areas of Hume, Wyndham, Brimbank, Moreland, Darebin, Moonee Valley, Melbourne, Maribyrnong, Melton, Casey, Greater Dandenong, Monash, Kingston, Cardinia, Whittlesea, Banyule and Boroondara.
11 of the clinics fall in the catchment area of North Western Melbourne PHN, with the others located in the catchments of Eastern Melbourne and South Eastern Melbourne PHNs.
They have been commissioned following a rigorous expression-of-interest process, through which GPs were asked to demonstrate that they could provide respiratory assessment services safely and do so over extended hours.
Services are offered to all Victorians, regardless of whether they have a Medicare card. Some patients will be referred to the clinics by GPs and hospitals, but appointments aren’t essential. The clinics are for people with respiratory symptoms only and are not for asymptomatic or pre-travel testing.
“These GP-run respiratory clinics will allow adults and children with mild respiratory symptoms to receive high quality, accessible care in the community, rather than presenting to a hospital,” said NWMPHN CEO Christopher Carter.
“This will help relieve pressure across the health system, and go towards the PHNs’ primary aim of making sure everyone can access the best health care when and where they need it.”
Michael Beres, interim CEO of SEMPHN agreed. “Even without COVID-19, respiratory symptoms require prompt and proper care, and these clinics will go a long way to ensuring that is available,” he said.
EMPHN CEO Janine Wilson added, “This is a great community-level pathway for making sure patients are seen promptly and professionally, while keeping the rest of the primary care system moving freely.”
The GP-run respiratory clinics complement several federally funded GP respiratory clinics already in operation.