WORKS are underway to open a second COVID-19 screening clinic in Ballarat amid widespread concern the wait for testing was too long for people with mild respiratory concerns.
Ballarat Health Services acute operations director Ben Kelly confirmed talks with Ballarat Community Health to undertake an assessment clinic that would work "hand in glove" with the UFS-led fever clinic in Lucas.
Mr Kelly said finer details were still being worked out but this was a good option for expanding testing and improving access to the wider community.
CORONAVIRUS testing is set to expand in the UFS-led Lucas fever clinic this week with the Australian Health Department approving an extra consulting room.
UFS chief executive officer Lynne McLennan said this comes after lobbying for greater Commonwealth funding to meet an increasing demand for screening people with symptoms in the Ballarat region.
Up to 250 people each day are being screened in the clinic in the wake of the Victorian government's move to lockdown Melbourne last week. Testing hours have already been extended since the clinic opened in April, in partnership with Ballarat Health Services resources.
Ballarat doctors have voiced their concerns the wait for people self-referring to get a test with Australian Medical Association Victoria president Julian Rait on Monday calling for the re-opening of the Sebastopol-based fever clinic to improve access.
Ms McLennan reiterated UFS and BHS were reviewing demand daily but UFS would also warmly welcome any general practitioners to volunteer and help to extend operating hours.
Under the Commonwealth funding, the clinic must have at least one GP on site at all times. UFS has five, including four part-time, working on a rotating basis, with 17 nursing staff. Additional staff are being recruited and trained to boost capacity in the clinic.
The extra room, which must first be inspected by the federal health department, will expand capacity for testing within operating hours.
Ms McLennan said it was undoubtedly tough for people having to wait for tests or results, but it was vital to keep doing the right thing and isolating - even for the mildest symptoms. She said Ballarat had been doing a great job in getting tested at the sign of any respiratory issues.
"We're working hard to reduce wait times for appointments," Ms McLennan said. "It is really important if you have any respiratory symptoms, do not go to work, you must self-isolate at home. Most employers are really strict on this condition."
We're working hard to reduce wait times for appointments. It is really important if you have any respiratory symptoms, do not go to work, you must self-isolate at home.Lynne McLennan, UFS chief executive officer
Urgent cases, including essential workers and people with a letter from the health department, are given priority for testing in Lucas. The clinic also aims for same-day testing for patients referred by a GP.
UFS and BHS have both maintained running Lucas and Sebastopol clinics simultaneously was too confusing for patients both in bookings and seeking test results. The Sebastopol site was returned to the BHS public dental clinic.
Some GP clinics in Ballarat will offer a COVID-19 test either free via bulk-billing or in a paid consultation.
Ms McLennan said personal protective equipment was more accessible in Ballarat now, including from Ballarat supplier Westlab, allowing a chance for more GP clinics to offer practical support with respiratory testing of their patients.
Patients can book online at ufs.com.au/test or phone 4311 1571. People seeking a priority test should phone the clinic.
Lucas fever clinic is open from 8.30am-8pm weekdays and 9am-5pm on weekends.
The wait for test results from pathology is a conservative two to three days.
Essential workers include workers in healthcare and aged care facilities and workers in childcare, education, disability and emergency services.
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