An era ends as Fiona Stanley Hospital COVID-19 testing clinic closes

Group of COVID-19 clinic employees
Clinic team bid farewell to the FSH COVID-19 clinic
July 14, 2022

This Friday, 15 July 2022, the Fiona Stanley Hospital COVID-19 testing clinic will close its doors for after more than two years of taking PCR swabs.

Back in March 2020, the world was a very different place – COVID-19 was beginning to circulate in the community and no one knew what the future held. On Tuesday 10 March 2022, the State’s first three COVID-19 testing clinics opened, including the clinic located at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Clinical Nurse Consultant Claire Van Der Merwe worked in the COVID-19 clinic from the week it opened and looks back on the past two years somewhat fondly.

“I was excited to be involved in supporting the WA community, but anxious about what the impact of working on the frontline would be on me and my loved ones,” Claire explained.

“We committed to working long hours in full PPE helping to protect the most vulnerable in our community.

Claire explained that when things got tough among the team, that’s when they got closest.

“I gained a family working in the COVID-19 testing clinic,” Claire smiled.

“As with many COVID-19 practitioners worldwide, we were ostracised in the community as we worked on the frontline and people didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t get a haircut for almost a year because my hairdresser was afraid to be near me!

“Come rain, hail or shine and through the lows and highs, it was the team support and effort that was the shining light.

“Throughout the two years there were many occasions when announcements were made – be it a lockdown or new exposure sites – that meant the team had to be flexible and agile. During these times there were often long queues of people waiting for testing – often in the heat or rain – and a great deal of pressure to get the line moving.

“It was during these times that everyone throughout the hospital dropped everything to help out and work long hours over the weekend.

“During these challenges it felt like any form hierarchy was abolished – when the going got tough, the executives were down in the trenches with us helping us be it crowd control, making discharge packs, data entry, and even swabbing” Claire said.

Senior Project Coordinator COVID-19 Sarah Hobson explained that the first few months were a learning curve in the COVID-19 testing clinic.

“We never expected the huge numbers of people who turned out for testing and we thought we had processes in place to manage just about anything, but we were wrong,” Sarah laughed.

“On the day the clinic opened, we thought we would have a few dozen people filter through the doors for testing – we never predicted we would kick off day one with 400! That seemed like a lot until the day we hit over 1,300 swabs.

“We had numbers which people could take to mark their spot in the line. I once walked out to a full room and called ’number 50?’, someone called back ’which 50? There’s four of us!’ – We switched to a different ticketing system!

“I think we have all had to become very flexible and adaptable to change in this environment.”

Claire and Sarah agreed seeing the clinic close its doors will spark a lot of emotion in them.

“It’s been my whole life for over two years – the clinic has my second home and the team my second family,” Claire said.

“We achieved so much in such a short amount of time, including seeing more than 136,000 people who have walked into the clinic – it really does feel like the end of an era.”

There are too many people who made the COVID-19 clinic possible to name individually, but each-and-every person involved was essential to WA’s COVID-19 response – thank you.

Although the Fiona Stanley Hospital COVID-19 testing clinic is closing its doors for the last time at 8:00pm this Friday, PCR tests are still available at other sites across WA. For more information about where to get a PCR test, visit the HealthyWA website (external site).

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