Rachel Macfarlane is St Vincent’s Hospital’s Incident Response Manager and she is no stranger to responding to crises.

In January, Rachel was deployed to Batemans Bay to help with the bushfire response. Shortly after, with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she was deployed to Darwin’s Howard Springs Quarantine Station, where most of the Diamond Princess passengers were quarantined.

So, it comes as no surprise that Rachel played a key role in setting up the St Vincent’s COVID-19 testing clinics in Eastern Sydney. Not only did she help set up the first pop-up testing clinic in Bondi, but she and the team did it in just 24 hours.

A drive-through clinic followed a few weeks later and then a third clinic was set up in East Sydney. In late July, the Rushcutters Bay Clinic was set was set up in just 12 hours, following the outbreak of several hotspots in the area. Two of these clinics (Bondi walk-in and Rushcutter’s Bay) have since closed.

‘What many people don’t realise, is how many things we have to organise when setting up a clinic,’ said Rachel.

‘We have learnt a lot through trial-and-error. On the first day we turned up with PPEs and swab kits and quickly realised we needed so much more.

‘Staffing is critical, and of course we need to have enough testing kits, but we also need PPEs, chairs, tables, clinical waste bins, food and water for staff, shelter, storage, lighting to name just a few.’ Rachel explains they also needed to ensure the IT department was involved in the setting up of these testing clinics.

‘We had to work out how to register and keep track of all data and we also needed to establish manual back-up procedures if IT failed,’ Rachel said.

‘In winter, we had to ensure our staff were protected from the elements with wet weather gear and warm clothes.

‘Now that summer is here, we need to ensure the sun safety of our staff, so we’ve invested in what our pathology manager has called the biggest shelter in the galaxy.’

Since their first clinic opened in March, 60 thousand people have been COVID-19 tested across the four clinics.

Although daily testing numbers have decreased to about 200 a day compared to 800 at its peak, managing the daily operations of the remaining two clinics continues to be a huge job.

‘We now have a person in-charge at each clinic, but I’m still responsible for the day-to-day management, however I manage this from the hospital,’ Rachel said.

St Vincent’s Hospital now has the capability to rapidly deploy a team to set up a clinic with very short notice.

‘We have a cache of required equipment to set up a pop-up clinic and could easily ramp up to meet the demands of the community,’ Rachel said.

Current as at: Thursday 7 January 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW