Members of the Fever Clinic Team. Image: Supplied
Doris Vella MACN, Director of Nursing at the Melton Campus of Djerriwarrh Health Services, is leading a team of nurses at a drive-through COVID-19 Fever Clinic. We spoke to Doris to gain an insight into how a drive-through COVID-19 Fever Clinic operates and how her team have risen to the challenge to protect Australians during these difficult times.
Tell us about the drive-through COVID-19 Fever Clinic you work in?
We were one of the few health services that opened a drive-through Fever Clinic quickly. We have seen around 5,500 of which 4,000 have been swabbed since testing started in March. Out of that, we have only had a handful of positive cases. Testing criteria has expanded, and we are now testing more people than ever from all over the city. There are a lot of worried people and when we first started the drive-through clinic it was just nuts because people didn’t want to stand in queues, their car offered them safety and social distancing.
Can you explain how the clinic operates?
People from the public will see our post on social media and they can call our hotline and get tailored advice. They arrive in their car, they follow the signs through to our Fever Clinic drive through-service. A nurse will come through the car park and make sure everybody in the car is not acutely unwell requiring medical care. A screener will then do a questionnaire with the patient to see if they meet the criteria for testing.
The patient will then drive-through to where the nurses taking swabs (affectionately known as the “swabbers”) are, a three-point ID check is done and an explanation to the patient on how the test is taken and then its show time! The sample is sent off for testing. We also record the patients’ baseline vital signs. Our Urgent Care Centre supports the drive-through clinic; some patients are redirected to urgent care if they are unwell and need to be seen by a doctor.
The drive-through clinic is very safe; people can stay in the comfort of their own car, maintain social distancing and getting a COVID 19 test does not take long at all.
- How do you and your team of nurses feel about being on the frontline of this pandemic?
Nursing is a beautiful profession. We joined because we wanted to help people and that is what we have seen with this pandemic. I have seen nothing but courage in the team that is working in the Drive-through Clinic. Not just courage to be at the frontline and do the tests but I see the compassion in their eyes and voices and also hard work. It has been cold and raining yet not one person has shied away. They are very brave and courageous; I would not wish for a different team.
Our nurses are also incredibly flexible; they deal with all sorts of things that happen working outside in the car park. A lady’s car broke down recently and we had to push the car to the side, but we still swabbed her through our facility! Our CEO is a nurse and she is also out on the frontline screening, so we are all in it together. The team feel this true sense of mateship, the type you see in war movies and it is beautiful.
The comradery within not only the nursing team but also the health service has been absolutely amazing. Where we have needed more help with the screening, people from all parts of the organisation have come to help out. Our Executive team has also pitched in whether it’s been to screen patients or help out on the Fever Clinic Hotline. People do not shy away because of hard work and they don’t shy away because it’s a virus.
The Djerriwarrh Health Service staff are making a significant difference to the community and to getting on top of this virus; this is very important work.
- What has the reception been like from members of the public who have attended the clinic?
Overall, outstanding. We have had people come in and drop off chocolates, kindergarteners have brought in flowers with love hearts on them saying thank you for all the work you do. Others have honked their cars as they’ve gone past, sewed cloth hats and members of the local Sikh community have made us Indian vegetarian dinners; what can I say, the community support has been amazing!