May 31, 2021

Traffic control with Neil

Rain, hail or shine, you can always count on the wonderful traffic controllers to smile, despite being on their feet all day, while directing traffic at our COVID-19 Testing Clinic at the Northern Centre For Health Education and Research (NCHER) at Northern Hospital Epping.

Neil Florence has been a traffic controller at NCHER since October last year, and has become somewhat of a minor celebrity in the last week, often spotted in the background of the numerous television reports from the hospital on our COVID-19 Testing Clinic.

“It’s an interesting job,” Neil said.

“I normally get here about 45 minutes before testing opens. Then we get everything set up for when people do start to arrive. Then the rest of the day we manage the cars in and out of the tents without trying to disrupt the operations, especially the transfer patient area, the dialysis and people going to DPV Health.”

Since the recent COVID-19 outbreak, many community members have chosen Northern Hospital Epping and Craigieburn Centre to get tested for the virus. We have also extended our operating hours to meet the demand to test as many people as possible.

“In these busy times, people sometimes get here an hour beforehand, and most get surprised with the number of people that have already queued. I was talking to a gentleman who first arrived at 5.30 am for an 8 am test, and there are multiple people for testing in some cars,” Neil said.

Neil is employed by the Department of Health to ensure traffic and pedestrian activity runs smoothly at NCHER. He says no two days are the same as a traffic controller.

“We get to know the people here. We now know a lot of the nursing staff by car registration numbers so they just get waved through,” he said.

“I like working here. It’s a nice place. Every day there is something different. People ask if I get bored, but if you are doing your job properly, then you don’t get bored. You have to keep on your toes, keep an eye out for pedestrians and a car that may not know what it’s doing, especially around here.”

Elisha O’Dowd, Acting Project Manager, COVID-19 Clinics and Entry Screening, thanked the dedicated staff assisting with testing more than 5,000 community members over the last week.

“Our nurses, clerical staff, traffic controllers and security personnel have worked tirelessly in the past week to meet the high demands and long hours at our testing sites,” she said.

“They are very experienced now in managing fluctuating demands and face every new challenge with a positive attitude and unshakeable resilience. The public response for being tested has been extraordinary. It is clear the local community understands the importance of being tested, even for mild symptoms and exposure risk. I would sincerely like to thank the public for taking the time to be tested and for being so patient.”

Northern Health urges anyone, even with the mildest of symptoms, to get tested. For more information, visit

Featured image: Neil Florence directing traffic at NCHER