How the department is asking GPs to assist in roll out – A lot of stick and very little carrot

7th February 2021, Dr Chee L Khoo

We discussed last week how onerous the whole Covid-19 vaccine roll out was going to be if we sign up to Phase 1B of the mass vaccination campaign. We were supposed to use the National Booking System (NBS) without any details in our expression of interest (EOI). All patients were supposed to go this one stop shop and arranged to go to the nearest vaccine centre whether it is the chemist, GP or hospital and it will all be one click. All sounds very high tech in this roll out. The federal health department had the last 4-6 months to plan this massive roll out. We now have a revision of those conditions in the EOI.

First, the remuneration on offer has not changed. Still a pittance of a 5 minute worth of pay for a 20 minute consult. Plus lots of paperwork and notification online for the staff to do with each vaccination.

Next was the NBS which is likely to sit on top of the practice software and the NBS can ramp up the number that needs to be vaccinated as they see fit. This has the potential to overwhelmed the practice when strangers turn up to be vaccinated. Well, guess what, the NBS does not exist. It has not been developed. When pressed by our software developers, the government digital experts admitted that it is still under development. So, they have changed their tune – practices who have online booking available can use their existing online booking system (since the NBS does not exist) and for practices who do not have online booking system, don’t worry about it. SO much for the one stop shop for all patients.

Practices can now indicate that they just want to vaccinate their own patients within their nominated hours. Prior to that, their indicated that they are more looking at practices setting up “vaccination clinics” and not your good old GP practice. The feds have no idea how GPs work and how important a role GPs play in general and particularly, during the massive roll-out.

We now hear that practices who provide Covid-19 vaccination must enter the vaccination into the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) online within 24 hours. Failure to do so within 24 hours will cop a fine of $6600. Wow, why is it such a big crime and big punishment. Most of us try our best to keep those information current especially, if we are provide the Covid-19 vaccines. Who will be harmed if I missed the 24 hour deadline? Remember, this massive roll out is on top of what we have to do daily to look after our patients. In the rush, it is conceivable that some vaccination may not be updated in the AIR. Geez. Talking about the big stick.

This massive roll out is definitely more a stick than a carrot.

For now, we have signed up for Phase 1B but we reserved to the right to withdraw from providing if it means it causes carnage at the practice. We will keep you up to date as to when the vaccine stocks arrive (which will be another saga on its own).