The head of South Australia’s Rural Doctor’s Association says staffing shortages are the biggest barrier to accelerating vaccination rates in regional SA, amid another change to COVID-19 jab advice.
- The head of SA Rural Doctors Association says staff shortages are preventing the COVID-19 vaccine rollout progressing in regional SA
- Regional GPs have expressed frustration with the Federal Government’s changes to the rollout and a dearth of vaccine doses
- Health Minister Stephen Wade says SA Health is working on getting more vaccines out to regional areas
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday that people under 40-years-old could consult with their GP about receiving the Astra Zeneca vaccine and that doctors would be given indemnity over their advice.
For regional South Australians, it’s provided another avenue to vaccination after people over 16-years-old were made eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine at a state-run vaccine hub in May.
A high demand for appointments though has led to some regional hubs – as of Wednesday – not taking any new appointments through its online booking portal.
Rural Doctors Association president Dr Peter Rischbieth said offering up another avenue to get vaccinated through a local GP won’t help the roll out if there isn’t more staff made available to give out jabs.
“While we’d love to do more vaccinations, we also have to do our other practice work, our flu clinics, our practice nurse work that we have for our community patients and our hospital work at times,” he said.
“We’re trying to do as many of these community tasks that we can, but certainly the workforce shortages in many rural areas mean it’s hard for patients to get appointments.”
Confusion as rural GPs figure out rules
Wudinna, at the top of the state’s Eyre Peninsula, is more than two hours from the closest clinic offering vaccines to all ages.
Local GP Dr Scott Lewis said locals are ‘utterly frustrated’ with the roll out.
“We are utterly frustrated by the mixed messaging from the government, we are utterly frustrated with the rapidly shifting goalposts and targets about who we are meant to be vaccinated.
“We are also frustrated that supplies of Pfizer are still incredibly inadequate for what we’re meant to be achieving.
In the South East, Tatiara Medical Centre medical director Dr Hassan Mahmood, based in the state’s South East, said Monday’s announcement led to a large number of calls to his clinic asking for a consultation about the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He was surprised and overwhelmed by Monday’s announcement.
“The situation is evolving, so we’re waiting for more data to come,” he said.
“The vaccination program has been very slow from the beginning we just have to get limited supplies of vaccinations.”
Mobile clinics, ambulances, proposed for rollout
SA health minister Stephen Wade said SA Health is investigating ways to get more vaccines to regional South Australia, including sending mobile clinics to remote and low socio-economic areas and getting more pharmacies involved in the rollout.
He added more vaccine appointments would be made available by SA Health at state-run clinics and people should be patient when looking to secure their jab either through a GP or the State Government. .
“I appreciate the frustration for not only GPs but also people seeking vaccination with the changes to the program,” he said
“What people need to know is now is the time to get vaccinated.
“Sure there’s risks with vaccinations, but the risk of COVID-19 infections, morbidity and mortality is significantly higher.