Local doctors and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River have secured a local drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic as part of steps to ready the region for the arrival of the Omicron variant. Testing provider Clinipath will operate the drive-through test clinic behind the Shire offices starting Monday. The clinic will operate from 9am to 1pm on weekdays, with plans to operate on weekends as well in coming weeks. Shire president Paula Cristoffanini confirmed the news to the Times. “The Premier said that it was likely that there were COVID-positive people in the community who were not getting tested and encouraged people to go and get tested,” she said. “Until now, we have relied on our hospitals in Augusta and Margaret River, but from February 21 a drive-through Clinipath testing clinic, such as that in Busselton, will be operating in Margaret River in the parking area behind our offices and the (Margaret River) Heart to increase the ability of anyone with symptoms or exposed to COVID-19 to be tested. “I join the Premier in encouraging all in our community to go and get tested.” The program was spearheaded by local GP Jaimie Drysdale, who is the chair of the Margaret River Hospital’s Medical Advisory Committee. Dr Drysdale told the Times doctors wanted to relieve the pressure on local hospitals for people who needed tests, but weren’t seriously ill. “It takes the pressure off the emergency department,” she said. “It’s difficult. It takes a staff member off the floor and needs full personal protection equipment.” Doctors were concerned people seeking testing would be discouraged or face long wait times if presenting at the hospital during any major events, which took priority. Dr Drysdale said anyone who was seriously ill could still attend the hospital for testing. “(But) we’ll be encouraging people who are a close contact or who aren’t sick to take that (Clinipath) option,” she said. The drive-through clinic is expected to operate for the foreseeable future, with local medicos expecting need for testing to soar as Omicron spread Statewide. Dr Drysdale said Margaret River Hospital was as well prepared at possible, under current conditions, but did not have intensive-care capacity. The Times understands the WA Country Health Service plan for critically ill patients involves transfer to Busselton or Bunbury hospitals. Dr Drysdale said anyone tested in Margaret River and confirmed COVID-positive would receive information for undertaking care at home. Patients in critical categories such as the elderly, obese, those not triple vaccinated, or with underlying health conditions would also receive daily phone liaisons and be transferred into medical care if their condition deteriorated. “We plan to evolve with the situation,” she said. Clinipath Pathology business development manager Jennifer Bolton-Gibbs said a lack of suitable locations was overcome with the Shire’s help and would relieve pressure on the Busselton clinic.