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Summer Hill drive-through COVID-19 Clinic milestone

First drive-through testing clinic in NSW marks 12-months of operation.

Group of people standing outdoors; socially distancing
SydneyConnect Image:  Summer Hill drive-through COVID-19 Clinic staff

The Sydney Local Health District team at the Summer Hill drive-through COVID-19 Clinic is close to carrying out 100,000 tests, as the District marks 12-months since the clinic opened.

It was the first drive-through clinic set up in New South Wales, as part of the District’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a simple set-up. It’s been functioning well and working efficiently,” Sue McGrady, a Nurse Manager at RPA who helped establish the drive-through, said.

It was initially set up to test staff with mild symptoms of the virus and on its first day of operation 67 members of staff were tested.

It soon expanded to include workers at residential aged care facilities, GPs, pharmacists, plus police, fire and ambulance personnel. Later the clinic opened to the community.

Now, the team at the clinic has carried out more than 91,000 tests and so far, the busiest day has been 20 December 2020 when 718 tests were completed.

Over the past year, redeployed Nurse Unit Managers Jessica Pavlidis, Annmaree Lavery, Jeanette King, Cathy Llewellyn and Alison Wallbank have overseen its daily operations.

“People coming to the drive-through to be tested have expressed their appreciation for the job we’re doing,” Ms Pavlidis said.

About 25 staff work across the clinic’s three testing stations every day.

In June one of them, Child and Family Nurse Mary Milne, invented Murph the sock puppet who has helped thousands of children to keep calm while getting a COVID-19 test.

“Murph the sock puppet shows children how to open their mouth and tilt their head. I can use him to show them where we will swab,” Ms Milne said.

The sock puppet is now used across all of the District’s COVID-19 clinics, at Special Health Accommodation and by the Flying Squad.

The District’s digital check-in system, introduced in July to streamline the registration process for people having a COVID-19 test, has worked well.

“Our staff can spend more time checking details instead of writing them down. Overall, people can be in and out of testing much more quickly,” Ms Pavlidis said.

The Summer Hill team was recognised at the District’s Innovation and Excellence Awards last year for its outstanding contribution to the COVID-19 response.

“All of our staff have been amazing. They’ve all had to take on new roles in very short timeframes in a rapidly changing environment,” Paula Caffrey, the acting General Manager of Community Health Services, said.

The Summer Hill drive-through COVID-19 Clinic is at an Inner West Council Depot at           7 Prospect Road, Summer Hill and is open from 8.30am – 4pm seven days a week.