First Aussie drive-through coronavirus testing station opens
Australia's first drive-through coronavirus test collection service has opened at the Repat Hospital as SA Health braces for a surge in potential cases.
Patients will drive in at the entrance near the precinct's clock tower and stay in their car while two nurses wearing protective uniforms use cotton buds to take a swab from the back of the throat and the nose, working through the driver's side open window.
Officials expect to do up to six patients an hour, working up to nine hours a day, but say this can be increased. They are already looking at a second site in the northern suburbs.
Patients must be referred by a GP who will fax the details to the Repat clinic and the patient will then be given a time to drive in to minimise delays.
The first patient on Tuesday was a young man and the whole process from driving in to confirming identification details and having the swabs taken took about five minutes.
SA Pathology - which faces staff cutbacks and the threat of a decision on privatisation next month unless it meets efficiency goals - is running the collection centre in addition to its usual tests.
SA Pathology clinical services director Dr Tom Dodd said so far the agency has done 5500 tests for coronavirus since January 31, and also collected more than 100 swabs for tests with its domiciliary home collection service for people who cannot drive to have a test done.
South Australia is the only state to routinely run a test for coronavirus on swabs taken for tests on people with respiratory problems.
Dr Dodd said the drive-in aimed to ease pressure on GPs who, for a variety of reasons, are not easily able to take tests in their practice.
He noted some GPs are now seeing potential coronavirus victims in carparks rather than allowing them into their surgeries.
"You'll be able to literally drive through, wind your window down and specimens will be collected directly by SA Pathology nurses wearing full personal protective equipment, it presents no risk at all to anyone working on the site," he said.
"Patients will literally drive in and stop, they won't get out of their car and instead will lower the window and a swab will be taken with a bud on the end of a stick from the back of your throat and also your nose, which goes straight back to the lab.
"We are well aware some GPs are seeing patients in their carparks, it might be a good way for practices to manage their patients and refer them on here for a specimen collection.
"It is specifically for patients who have seen a GP. What we anticipate will happen is a patient sees a GP and if the GP thinks it will be helpful to have a specimen collected here they will be able to fax a request form through to SA Pathology then ring and a time for the collection will be arranged so patients will flow through in a seamless fashion."
Dr Dodd said the coronavirus clinics at major hospitals are aimed at people who have returned from overseas and are showing possible symptoms as well as people who have been in contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases, rather than people just suffering a cough, cold or sore throat who should instead see their GP.