The first rural GP-led COVID-19 respiratory clinic in New South Wales has officially opened in Wagga Wagga.

Deputy Prime Minister Federal Nationals Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said the new respiratory clinic was part of the Government’s $2.4 billion health package to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Wagga Wagga is a health hub for the Riverina and the Murrumbidgee Valley with more than 250,000 people relying on the regional city’s health services and medical professionals,” Mr McCormack said.

“Glenrock Country Practice’s Dr Ayman Shenouda has been at the forefront of making sure regional Australians live healthy lives and get through this challenging time. I commend the work he has done to help get this clinic up and running. I know the local community will be extremely grateful.

“The Federal Government has committed to establishing up to 100 GP-led respiratory clinics across Australia to assess patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

“The local clinics will help to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments and other general practices.

“Rural and regional residents deserve health care services which are just as good as those provided in our major cities and the national rollout of these new clinics is part of addressing that.

“These respiratory clinics will be best placed to support people with a fever, cough, sore throat and other respiratory symptoms and will help to avoid the risk of infection in our local communities.”

Federal Nationals Minister for Regional Health Mark Coulton said the Government was focused on ensuring rural and regional communities are prepared to respond to this pandemic.

“We are putting in place a range of measures including additional practice incentives and the expansion of telehealth to enable the rural medical workforce to continue to care for rural people,” Mr Coulton said.

“Other rural respiratory clinics are also operating with more to open over the coming weeks and months.

“The Government is working with local GPs and Aspen Medical, which has significant health emergency management experience in Australia and overseas, to rollout the clinics.”

Vice President of the Royal Australian College of General Practice and Wagga Wagga GP Dr Ayman Shenouda said it was an honour to open the first rural GP-led COVID-19 respiratory clinic in New South Wales.

“GPs are doing an incredible job on the frontline of COVID-19 combating this virus and the respiratory clinic in Wagga Wagga will make a real difference,” Dr Shenouda said.

“The clinic will help to screen patients with flu-like symptoms and is located in a separate position to the practice to keep staff and patients safe. It will allow all patients to access their own GP in a safe environment.

“Screening patients for COVID-19 will help to reduce community transmission of coronavirus.”

The Government is investing $206.7 million to establish up to 100 respiratory clinics across Australia, including in rural and regional areas. Additionally, more than 160 fever clinics, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments are also in operation across Australia.