First Nations COVID-19 Testing Van Rolls Out

A DEDICATED van for COVID-19 testing will be deployed across the Far North to prevent the spread  of COVID-19 among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

Cairns-based Tropical Public Health Services launched its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations COVID-19 outreach van today to support testing and community engagement.  

The mobile testing van is staffed by three nurses, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer and an Administration Officer, and supported by a Senior Medical Officer, a Public Health Nurse and a Senior Public Health Officer.  

The team will have the ability to test symptomatic people and provide up to date information about how  individuals and communities can protect themselves from COVID-19. 

The van will be visiting a range of sites within the Cairns and Hinterland region, including the communities of Yarrabah and Mossman Gorge, and started today in Shang Park, Mooroobool.  

The clinical lead for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations COVID-19 response, Dr Oscar Whitehead, said increasing testing accessibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will help us detect any potential cases early to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community. 

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have done really well to keep COVID-safe over the past  year. 

“It is important that this continues, particularly to protect Elders and people with existing health conditions who are at risk of more severe COVID-19 outcomes. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever; cough; sore throat; shortness of breath; runny nose;  fatigue; loss of smell and/or taste; diarrhea; nausea or vomiting.  

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations COVID-19 response team has also been  working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to encourage information sharing  around COVID-19, with a common goal to #KEEPMOBSAFE. 

Clinical Nurse, Tricia Dixon, said as a local Aboriginal woman, it was great to have engaged with local  groups and share culturally safe information around COVID-19. 

“It will be great to hit the road with our new van, to bring more awareness to the continually changing  environment of COVID-19.” she said. 

The van is adorned with artwork by Cairns-based Aboriginal artist Jedess Hudson, who also works as a communications and engagement officer for the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service

The artwork is titled Community Spirit (Wawu) and depicts how the strength we share in the COVID-19  pandemic is the support we have for one another. 

This includes information sharing between our Hospital and Health service, Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islander people, organisations and communities. 

For more information about COVID-19 prevention in First Nations communities, please visit Qld Health’s dedicated information here.

Featured Image / Tropical Public Health Services (Cairns) First Nations COVID-19 response team with their new mobile testing van