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Cape York, Qld

South Side Medical protecting local community during winter season

Mackay-based general practice South Side Medical is using innovative methods to deal with the current busy winter season of COVID-19 and influenza and protect the safety of its patients.

Australia had record low flu numbers during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the number of influenza cases have increased rapidly this winter.

South Side Medical Practice Owner/Manager Kath O’Brien said the practice had utilised a separate area of the practice called ‘The Green Clinic’ throughout the COVID vaccination period, and has now continued its use as part of its winter strategy to care for patients.

“We have one doctor assigned to the Green Clinic, which has got its own external entrance and extraction fan to improve air quality,” she said.

“Every patient is screened when they book an appointment at our practice, and if they do online appointments, they are screened through the online booking app.

“If we think they could be potentially infected, they're still able to be seen physically but it means we can examine them safely through the Green Clinic and not risk exposure to other patients.

“It takes a lot of pressure off our receptionists, and we can give our patients a safe option.”

Kath believes the Green Clinic and similar models of care will become the normal way of delivering services through general practice.

“We think that it works really well, and the patients themselves are also understanding how important it is,” she said.

All systems associated with the clinic are automated such as booking, checking in when they arrive, and collection of payment, and to ensure no unnecessary contact is made with the unwell patient.

E-scripts are utilised as well as e-ordering for pathology and radiology, and patients are able to wait in their car until the doctor is ready or alternatively take a seat outside in the fresh air.

“There is a lot of anxiety and concern out there in the community, especially now we’re into winter and the viruses which are circulating,” said Kath.

“The patient could be infectious with flu or COVID, and if you infect the doctors and the staff, they have to take a week off and it reduces the capacity for them to see patients.

“We’re also protecting our other patients that are vulnerable from something else that could potentially harm them, and most of our patients are very familiar with our system so it's actually become part of the language with our regular patients.

“In the beginning our patients were worried they wouldn't get an appointment.

“However, once we reassured them about our Green Clinic, it increased accessibility for them and just gave them an option where they could still see one of our doctors, but felt comfortable at the same time.”

The Green Clinic is not the only initiative developed by South Side Medical to ensure patient safety during the COVID pandemic and into this year’s winter season.

“The other initiative that we've had for a long time is a designated waiting room for parents of newborns, specifically set up for babies,” Ms O’Brien said.

“Our mums love it, as their babies, especially those too young to be vaccinated, are not sitting in the general waiting room exposed to people.

“The rooms are fitted out with comfortable chairs for feeding, a change table, and closable door for privacy.

“This has helped us retain our high vaccination rates for our children, and patients are reassured their babies are safe in the waiting rooms and makes the new mums and dads feel a little bit special as well.”

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