Peace of mind: New drive-through COVID testing clinic at old Macksville Hospital opens

Sarah Duffus and Wayne Burns volunteered to operate the clinic at the old Macksville Hospital
Sarah Duffus and Wayne Burns volunteered to operate the clinic at the old Macksville Hospital

Eleven people have already taken advantage of the new drive-through COVID testing clinic which opened today at the old Macksville Hospital.

After witnessing the process today, Guardian News can report that it's as simple as ordering a drive-thru burger.

Anyone displaying any symptoms, including a runny nose or scratchy throat, can drive up without notice to the entrance located on Nancye Roberts Dr, off Boundary St.

Derek Alsleben greets people at the entrance

Derek Alsleben greets people at the entrance

There they will be greeted by friendly security officer Derek Alsleben, who directs them to the carpark where they will be met by Clinical Nurse Specialist and testing clinic concierge Wayne Burns dressed in full PPE.

Wayne meets patients in the carpark and collates details

Wayne meets patients in the carpark and collates details

After filling out the required documents, cars are ushered through to the testing site where Registered Nurse Sarah Duffus will administer a (much less invasive) nose swab before securing the sample ready for courier transport to a NSW pathology facility.

Sarah Duffus collects nose swab samples before securing them to be taken by a courier to a pathology centre

Sarah Duffus collects nose swab samples before securing them to be taken by a courier to a pathology centre

Each person tested leaves with a 'doggy bag' including several masks, and is advised to return home and self-isolate until test results are returned.

Patients can also register to receive their results through a faster SMS alert notification.

Executive Officer and Director of Nursing at the Macksville and Bellingen Hospitals Ray Green is also a Nambucca Valley local, and is pleased this convenient drive-through facility is now available for other locals to take advantage of.

It just gives us peace of mind as a community that we have this facility to meet our needs and pick up any transmission quickly.

Ray Green

While a testing clinic has been open at the Nambucca Healthcare Centre since May, Ray said this one offers a "lot more access, is closer to home for many people, which means less travel".

Set-up for the facility has been happening over the past week, and Ray said it was "designed as a drive-through to maximise the facility we have here at the old Macksville Hospital'.

"The carpark and good flow through the clinic means we're confident we'll be able to cope with demand," he said.

The drive-through clinic is currently open from 9am to 1pm on Mondays and Thursdays, but Ray said that could easily be ramped up if need arises.

"It's a front up, no-appointment-required clinic, which makes it more flexible for people," he said.

"We're here for the community, so if you're feeling unwell, take the opportunity to get tested."

Derek maintains his 1.5 metres at all times

Derek maintains his 1.5 metres at all times

There are currently four people staffing the clinic; two RNs, a security guard, and an administrative staffmember.

"But we anticipate that this clinic will see more use as people become aware of it, and we have the capacity to increase staff as needed," Ray said.

Staff stationed at the clinic have all put up their own hands to work there.

"Someone has to do this, and why not me?" RN Wayne Burns said.

I see this as an important duty to meet the demands of this COVID threat for our local community.

While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Mid North Coast for almost three months, a recent cluster in the regional town of Port Stephens has sent ripples through our valley, as people start to realise how easily the same could happen here.

The advice from local health authorities to people concerned about whether they have come into contact with the virus is "don't wait, get tested, and (except for getting tested) stay home if you're feeling unwell".

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