This week, general practices in the Nepean Blue Mountains region start the staged roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations under Phase 1b of the Federal Government's Vaccination Roll-out Strategy.
Wentworth Healthcare, the provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network, has been working closely with the Department of Health to support local healthcare providers to prepare for the roll-out, which will take a staged approach over the next four weeks.
Phase 1b includes vulnerable groups, such as older people aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples aged over 55, critical and high risk workers including healthcare, defence, police, fire, emergency services, meat processing and people with certain underlying medical conditions.
Wentworth Healthcare CEO, Lizz Reay said, "We are proud that so many general practices in our region have agreed to be COVID-19 vaccine providers and that they are rising to the many challenges of this unprecedented national roll-out."
"We have 13 practicesin the Nepean Blue Mountainsregion commencing vaccinations next week including two in the Hawkesbury, Myhealth North Richmond and Heritage Medical Centre in Richmond, with approximately 70 more practices coming online within the next four weeks. Given the gradual upscaling of practices in the region, and the current limited supply of vaccines nationally, not everyone will be able to secure an appointment in the first few weeks," she said.
In addition to general practices, the region's three GP lead COVID-19 Respiratory Clinics, that have been conducting testing over the past year, will also be offering vaccinations. The Windsor Respiratory Clinic, located at 2 Kable Streetand run by My Health Kable StreetMedical Centre, has now commenced vaccinations.
"We ask the community to be patient with practices, and particularly practice staff, when trying to book an appointment. There will be more opportunities for vaccination as more GPs gradually come on board. The Federal Government has committed to making sure that every Australian who wants a vaccine, will be able to be vaccinated," said Ms Reay.
Dr Tony Rombola, GP from My Health Kable Street Medical Centre said, "The roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine in general practices is a significant milestone in the fight against this virus. It will bring us closer to ending this pandemic and resuming our normal daily activities."
Senator for Western Sydney, Marise Payne, said services will come online from Monday, March 22.
"Phase 1b of the rollout is focused on delivering COVID-19 vaccines for our elderly and immunocompromised," Senator Payne said.
"Those eligible for Phase 1b will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
"This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice or GP led Respiratory Clinic providing vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
"Vaccines are critical in our fight against the COVID-19 virus and I urge everyone in the Nepean, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury regions to come forward and get vaccinated when they are able to. It will protect themselves, their family, and their community."
Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, welcomed the rollout through GP practices.
"It will require patience but I know many people have their lives on hold and are hoping a successful roll out will allow them more normality," she said.
"I know Hawkesbury GPs will do the best they can."
People eligible for vaccination under Phase 1b of the roll-out will be able to find vaccination providers through the national Eligibility Checker located on healthdirect. This tool enables people to locate their nearest provider and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment. Appointment availability will increase as more general practices come on board and establish their systems and vaccine supply.