End of an era as COVID-19 testing clinics wind down

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The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS) is winding down its COVID-19 testing clinics, as case numbers of the virus keep declining across the Far North.

As part of the statewide process, CHHHS’ main fever clinic - located at 43 Aumuller St, Portsmith - will close its doors on Friday, 17 June alongside other testing clinics located at Tully, Innisfail Atherton, Mareeba and Mossman hospitals.

CHHHS Executive Director COVID-19 Response, Dr Donna Goodman, said fever clinics were always a temporary measure and transitioning clinical expertise back to hospitals and frontline health services was always part of the plan.

‘When we opened our first fever clinic at Cairns Hospital in March 2020, shortly after we had our first case of COVID-19, we had no idea how long we would need to keep these clinics open,’ she said.

‘But, more than two years later, Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) is now the primary form of testing.

‘More than 94 per cent of Far North Queenslanders are fully vaccinated, and the virus is widespread – we are effectively living with COVID-19.

‘COVID-19 testing is still required for some people; however, we are at the stage of the pandemic at which we can – and should – direct our health resources to where they are needed. She said the Health Service would retain an ability to stand up fever clinics at short notice; and hospital in-patients would still receive PCR testing if a clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 required confirmation.

‘PCR testing isn’t going away: you can still get tested in private pathology clinics via a referral from your GP; or self-referral online for overseas travel.

‘And, of course, you can access a RAT at your nearest stockist, including community pharmacies.’

CHHHS Health Incident Controller Rudi De Faveri said the Health Service was grateful to the many people who attended COVID-19 testing clinics throughout the pandemic.

‘As of yesterday, we have tested a more than 235,000 people at our fever clinics,’ he said.

‘Each of these people did a great service to others in their communities by reducing the spread of the virus.

‘The fact that we are able to be at a point now where we don’t need these clinics is a tribute to everyone who has had a hand in protecting our region from COVID-19, especially our staff who have faced immense challenges, often working in stressful conditions.

‘We are looking forward to returning our staff to their usual roles.

‘This means we can focus more on delivering essential healthcare.

‘This will help our hospitals manage the increasing demand for their services.’

Visit the Queensland Government website for more information on COVID-19 testing.

Register a positive RAT here.