SPONSORED: As COVID-19 screening tests arrived in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) established the region’s first screening test within their Remote Health Centre in Balgo.

The test was carried out on a young patient who presented to the clinic with symptoms of COVID-19.

A regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS), KAMS worked with the Commonwealth Indigenous Health Division to bring point of care testing for COVID-19 to the Kimberley.

In-clinic testing eliminates expensive and overwhelming travel to Broome for COVID-19 screening. This would require patients to spend several days in isolation before being able to access their results.

A partnership between the Point of Care testing team at Flinders University, KAMS and the Balgo Clinic enabled fast-tracking of staff training and finalising of technology requirements for the in-clinic testing.

Balgo Health Centre Coordinator, Christopher Munday, said he is pleased with the new tests and the impacts he has already noted in Balgo community members.

“It was great to be able to deliver the good news to this young woman, advising her within an hour that the test had come back with a negative result,” he said.

Having point of care testing close by is beneficial and will help protect Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley as travel restrictions ease and tourism picks up.

It will enable the quick testing of possible cases and immediate action if any cases present.

Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing are two new sites for point of care testing, with six other locations within the region to be rolled out over the coming weeks.

KAMS CEO, Vicki O’Donnell, is excited to be the first service in the country to offer this testing capability.

“This will be a game changer for our communities. The fact that we will have an immediate test result will save us having to transport people to Broome, where they are separated from family and friends while they await their test result,” O’Donnell said.

“The new point of care tests will allow us to undertake contact tracing with that individual while they wait the 45 minutes for their test outcome.”

“If their result returns negative, they can be treated for the condition they presented at the clinic with and return home. If their result returns positive, we can make an immediate start on contacting anybody they have been in contact with.”

O’Donnell thanked the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Commonwealth Indigenous Health Division, with particular regard to Dr Lucas De Toca and his team. She also extended thanks to the Kirby Institute, whose support enabled the roll out of the point of care testing GeneXpert machines.

By Rachael Knowles