THE daughter of an 80-year-old Bass Coast couple, recently relocated to Queensland, phoned the Sentinel-Times today, the day that Federal Government Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the appointment of more than 1000 local GP clinics to participate in Stage 1B of the COVID-19 roll out.
She wasn’t happy.
“I’ve been on this for weeks, trying to make sure my parents get access to the vaccine as soon as possible,” said Alison O’Keefe, formerly of Inverloch.
“My mum has dementia and they’re both diabetic. They can’t go online to get information and they need a bit of help with these things.
“I looked up the government’s vaccine eligibility checker and found my parents were well and truly eligible for Stage 1B of the roll out.
“I also found a number of GP clinics in this area which have been appointed by the government as their agents for the vaccine rollout.
“But when I rang [name] one of the medical centres on the list I was upset to be told they weren’t accepting bookings from people who were not patients of their medical centre.
“They did say however that if I booked my parents an appointment with the doctor and paid for that, they would then book me in for the vaccine.
“Surely that is an attempt to gouge the system and to build up their own database while extracting two fees from the government.
“I would be sure that’s not the intention of the government’s rollout.”
Officially, at least, those arrangements are outside of the agreement between the government and the GP involved.
That’s the word from a senior Gippsland healthcare official, and fortunately it’s not a widespread.
Ms O’Keefe rejected any idea that their first appointment might be for the doctor to acquaint himself or herself with any existing conditions before clearing the way to the vaccine.
“Whenever you go and get a flu shot, they get you to fill out a form declaring any condition you may have and there’s no problem. You get the jab and you’re on your way.
“It should be the same here.”
Ms O’Keefe has called on the government to investigate this situation in the event such arrangements were widespread and likely to not only cost the taxpayer but more importantly, nobble the rollout.
There have already been other difficulties with this more extensive rollout of the vaccine in regional areas.
Several of the South Gippsland and Bass Coast GP clinics which have been listed to facilitate the rollout were inundated with calls on Wednesday this week, and while they have taken names for a waiting list, were unable to confirm the bookings until the vaccine arrives.
“We have been told the vaccine will arrive on Friday but we are just taking a cautious approach until we actually have the vaccine.”
The staff member did say however, that available places were filling fast.