Wagga is now home to the first respiratory clinic in regional NSW as part of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The clinic's doors open today at Wagga's Glenrock Country Practice for patients showing signs of a fever, cough, sore throat and other respiratory symptoms to be screened free of charge.
There have been 44 positive cases of COVID-19 in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District as of Tuesday, with 25 patients recovered.
Riverina MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the clinic will keep people with respiratory symptoms out of the Wagga Base Hospital's emergency department and ease the strain that is anticipated from the approaching flu season.
"We all get coughs, colds and sniffles during winter, but the trouble this year is when someone has those symptoms they will instantly think of COVID-19," he said.
"The trouble is if ... you decide to attend the hospital. It places pressure, particularly at night, on staff. While they are doing very well, they don't need to have a queue of people just to get tested if in fact they just have a cough."
Glenrock Country Practice principal Ayman Shenouda said the clinic will make a huge difference in screening patients for COVID-19 in the effort to reduce community transmitted cases.
Dr Shenouda said the federal government has secured international borders, therefore the majority of cases will come from people-to-people transmissions.
"The more screening we do, the more control we have over the disease," he said.
As Wagga is a health hub for the Riverina and Murrumbidgee regions, the new respiratory clinic will service more than 250,000 people who rely on the medical professionals based in the city.
This includes communities as far away as Deniliquin, Griffith, Tumbarumba, Tumut, Gundagai and Cootamundra.
"The more we are screening for community transmissions the better it will be. We can identify those patients who have the problem, secure them and quarantine," Dr Shenouda said.
He said it was important to assemble regional clinics to ensure the hospital does not get overloaded by patients in the months to come.
Although he understands this will put pressure on his practice, he said the staff want to assist and be apart of the solution for the coronavirus crisis.
"It does put a strain on the practice because we need a couple of doctors and a nurse in that space, but it is good for the overall community," he said.
"The practice is part of the community and we want to help during this crisis and be a part of problem solving."
People with mild to moderate respiratory symptoms can make an appointment at the clinic online via health.gov.au.
However, people presenting with severe symptoms have been advised to call triple-zero or attend their nearest hospital emergency department.
The Wagga respiratory clinic comes as part of the federal government's $206.7 million investment in establishing up to 100 clinics across Australia.
The other clinics already up-and-running include Emerald in Queensland and Mildura in Victoria, with more to open in the coming weeks and months.