News from the Covid-19 Clinic- Dr Trevor Cheney

Dr Trevor Cheney gives his weekly report from the Bellingen Shire Covid-19 Clinic

Dear Bellingen Shire,

So we now move from lock down to creep out. This will be a controversial move. Although in the Bellingen Shire we have been so fortunate in our little bubble. The danger will be in becoming complacent.

We held our collective breaths initially – and the plague wave did not come – because of the lockdown process. Now we hold our breath again as we see if the success has been far reaching enough. Ironically the success of any preventative health measure can be its political downfall. Governing bodies always talk about how cost effective it is to prevent disease, but rarely do it because this cost is very difficult to sell to a populace.   Humans are programmed to respond to the crisis in front of us, and put off what can be put off. Calm preparation is nowhere near as sexy as a grand hospital emergency response – saving lives on the front line. So now Sceptics could argue – Was it worth it?? This is being manufactured into a generational conflict by some.   It would be easy to claim the whole event was a fizzer, like swine flu.   Ok, where do we try to find relativity?

Look again at Sweden, where not only was it a conscious decision, but apparently their constitution makes a lockdown order difficult for them. Again a jurisdiction similar in size to NSW, and not lacking financial and social resources. Our case load so far is just over 3,000 cases and we have lost 46 people (just over 1% of known cases). They have had over 26,300 cases and lost over 3,200! Could we not think that catastrophe would not hurt an economy as well? While their biggest fatalities have been in the older age group, the Gen X and Ys don’t escape unscathed – there have been as many deaths in 30 to 50y olds as we have seen in the whole of our state – nursing homes included.

So what has the lockdown bought us? More than anything – the time to prepare.

Throughout Australia now we have systems and resources set up and ready. We have had a chance to tool up for PPE, ICUs and hand sanitisers. We have schools and labs making us face screens. We have had a chance to know the enemy and meet it, while researchers fret over testing treatments. When it comes back at us we can respond quickly as a whole society.

On the down side it has enabled more conspiracy theorists to let loose. Please remember that many conspiracies are generated by people making a profit purely from having people read their stuff. They have no reason to fact check or make any attempt to know what they are talking about.

So again – the “serology” testing that was initially mooted still is too inaccurate, does not have a useful role, and is likely to muddy the water more than help. The miracle cures trumpeted on the web are still dangerous and misleading. What may seem simple and obvious and claim to work for 1 person hides the fact that it may have been toxic for 100 others. Sadly this may yet be the case for the much vaunted Hydroxychloroquine. It is useful for malaria and autoimmune diseases, but has a known side effect of causing heart rhythm problems. Covid 19 curiously causes an immune response that is very dangerous to the heart. It looked good in a test tube on Corona viruses, but then so does petrol, and we are not going to administer that to sick people any time soon. That fact that a high profile millionaire, with absolutely no scientific or medical knowledge, famously bought up and horded a stock of hydroxychloroquine has just made our medical supply lines that bit harder.

There are still a lot of candidates for treatment and if we can keep the virus out Australia and New Zealand may just be very lucky enough to hold out till successful treatments are found and successfully tested. Drug companies often quote that about 90% of everything they expensively research , test and develop ends up failing.

As we go back to school and work the priorities include – KEEP UP THE HAND WASHING!

Remember there is still a long way to go, and whoever thought grandmas could be so right?

Where should we put more resources? – perhaps supporting our hard working teachers and aged care workers. Given the debate and mixed messages about school kids spreading the virus, perhaps providing our cashed strapped public schools with abundant hand cleaner and increased general cleaning services would be a great place to start.

Regarding our Covid Testing Clinic

So far it is remaining viable and is riding on the availability of our GP practices. We have superimposed this on top of our normal work, so please bear with us if the times we open have to change at short notice. As the criteria opened up we got very busy and have extended back to opening for 12 -2pm. It has not been much needed on the Saturdays, so we have decided to run Monday to Friday only. If the need is quieter we will drop back to 1 hour again. If there is a breakout or reason for concern and more testing, we can expand the times.

We have tested over 400 in the Bellingen Shire and still no more cases for 4 weeks now! In fact in the Mid North Coast Health District (Port Macquarrie to Woolgoolga) there have been no new cases for 2 weeks.

Keep alert and safe. The world will be different this and next year. Lets hope it can find ways to be better.


Dr Cheney

Please remember details may change and this is one perspective – Please check any health questions with your GP


  • Vicki Parkes says:

    I so appreciate your reports and all the work of your pandemic response team. Thank you, Vicki Parkes

  • Vivianne Elliott says:

    Thank you once again Dr Cheney. Your updates are worth so much more than the Facebook experts.

  • Mandy says:

    Really appreciate your very informed, measured & grounded summaries of where we are in this changing COVID field each week Trevor. Thank you – local knowledge is so valuable. And reminders to keep alert but not alarmed.

  • Anne Graham says:

    Once again , Dr Cheney ‘s report covers all the topics and latest info that I need to know . I’m very grateful to know what’s happening locally and the issues ahead of us now . It is easy to relax a little , and we all need reminding that this virus is still here and we need to keep that thought front of mind . Thanks again Dr Cheney and all the GP’s volunteering time at the testing clinic .

  • Geoff Tosio says:

    Thanks Trevor, as always you’re a balanced source of tested information in this crazy period.

  • John May says:

    Thank You

  • Annie Arnold says:

    Thankyou Trevor and all the medical crew,

  • Mark says:

    Feeling lucky to be living in a place where we have low infection rates and great medicos.
    ‘Trumpeted’ lol.

  • Annie Kennedy says:

    Thanks for continuing to share clear, helpful information with us all Trevor. Very much appreciated. Bet you stay up late to do this for all of us.

  • Brian Clarkson says:

    Most of us know what a great humanitarian and a wonderful caring Doctor you are Trevor.
    Now you are simply proving that you are a man of great vision, wisdom and foresight.
    In summary, a wise and decisive leader.
    Again, thank you my dear friend.

  • Elly Barrett says:

    Good stuff! Hope all the crew at bello hospital are well!

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