COVID-19 testing for the asymptomatic and results in 20 minutes will be the way forward, according to an Altona North medical centre named Victoria’s best practice.
Altona North Medical Group has won General Practice of the Year in the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victorian faculty awards.
The centre was the first GP respiratory clinic testing for coronavirus in Melbourne’s west, pioneered drive-through testing and led western suburbs GPs in tracing close contacts faster than health authorities.
Dr Mukesh Haikerwal and partners run the Blackshaws Road centre, which assembled a pop-up virus clinic from portables and tents over 10 days at the start of the pandemic.
He said the group had pulled expertise from the medical sector into one place, together with a new generation of doctors, “in our quest to keep the people of this part of the world safe“.
“We also provide care for prevention and for health promotion, so it’s not just about illness – it’s about wellness,“ Dr Haikerwal said.
“We’ve got this concept of joined-up care, with everybody in one precinct, so it means that people don’t have to keep bopping from one place to another for their care.
“So, it’s a holistic view of health care led by the GPs who are doing work preventatively and proactively and making sure that people get the care that they need before they even know that they need it.“
Dr Haikerwal said COVID-19 testing had slowed from more than 130 tests a day to as low as 15.
He said the community had to learn to “live with COVID, because it’s not going away“.
“How do we make sure we do all the right things as we come in the front door, as we go through our home, as we live with our families?“ Dr Haikerwal said.
“As the restrictions lift, how do we do that in a safe way, making sure that if we go to a restaurant it’s safe, if we go to somebody’s house that it’s safe, keeping our distance? Once you’ve sanitised your hands, you’re probably OK. Wearing a mask is very, very beneficial.
“That’s actually the way forward – asymptomatic testing of high-risk groups in high-risk settings to make sure you minimise the spread of the disease.
“We’re looking at being to able offer a gateway where people get tested and get results in 20 minutes when the new tests are available.“
RACGP acting president, associate professor Ayman Shenouda, said: “The Altona North Medical Group practice is setting an incredibly high standard and provides superior medical care for patients in Melbourne’s western suburbs.“
“It is a multi-faceted, multi-lingual medical hub with a new respiratory clinic and COVID-19 testing facility that is vital in caring for people with a respiratory illness, including those needing testing, identification and support with COVID-19 in the pandemic.
“Chronic disease management is a core capability and a dedicated co-ordinator is responsible for identifying those at risk, recalls, follow-ups and missing information. She is able to flag individual patients with doctors so that health problems are not overlooked.
“Altona North Medical Group also has a longstanding commitment to system innovation, research and training up the next generation of health care professionals.“