Dongas linked by walkways, rural Australia gets its first COVID-19 clinic

Emerald 4720

Central Queensland is home to rural Australia’s first respiratory clinic to open as part of the national coronavirus response.

Key points:

  • Emerald’s clinic is the first to open in rural Australia, one of 100 to be set up across the country
  • It took local tradies three days to erect the facility – a series of dongas linked by walkways
  • The clinic will be open four hours a day and be staffed by local GPs in full personal-protective equipment

The Federal Government last month said it would fund 100 such private practice clinics around the country to assess and help people with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

The facility in Emerald, nearly 300 kilometres west of Rockhampton, will be staffed by local GPs and, unlike other such clinics, will not be attached to a hospital.

It consists of a series of dongas linked by walkways and will be coordinated by Emerald Medical Group, led by Ewan McPhee.

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“This protects general practice, should take some pressure off our emergency department, and provides some measure of reassurance to the public,” Dr McPhee said.

“These are assessment clinics, these are about seeing people who have symptoms and are concerned they have COVID-19.

“We’ll assess them and decide if people meet the criteria for testing or not, providing reassurance where they don’t, and providing other treatment if they’ve got other infections.

“But really providing people somewhere to go where they know they will be looked after and they will be seen.”

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Clinic took just days to build

Dr McPhee said it took local tradies three days to erect the makeshift facility — a series of dongas linked by walkways — which will be run by staff in full personal-protective equipment (PPE).

“They just got stuck in and overnight virtually we had a clinic,” he said.

“We were able to build a purpose-built, functional little clinic in three days.

“It is very much like you’d expect to see in these rural areas, there’s plenty of dongas hanging around.”


The local community rallied together to build the clinic in just three days. (Supplied: Paul Bell)

Dr McPhee said clinics would be built in urban, regional and rural areas and coordinated by various primary health networks.

Paul Bell, chair of Central Highlands Health Care, said the past few days setting up the clinic had been a whirlwind for the community.

“It certainly has been an exciting challenge putting it together and making sure we’ve got good separation from our existing practice … but also providing easy access for everybody, of all abilities, to get into the clinic,” he said.

“It will be GP-led and is a great example of how … the public and the private health system can share the load.

“We’re the first in rural Australia and it’s a real coup for the Central Highlands.”

Mr Bell said the free clinic would be open four hours a day.

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(ABC News)