As GPs begin to vaccinate patients all over the country, some complaints have arisen of insufficient dose supplies. GPs have been receiving 50 doses per week instead of the requested 200 per day.
However, Dr. Karen Price of the RACGP stated that the problem is more complicated, given that the vaccine required a specific dosage and staff training. She also said that clinics would have to be patient, as the low doses are a way of testing the procedures and ensuring that things go as planned.
Some GP complaints also involved the low costs associated with the small vaccine numbers. The problem here is that the low payments won’t cover administering the vaccine while also catering to other patient and community needs. Dr. Price addressed this as well and stated, “[things] will settle down as we get going.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt has also announced on Sunday that up to 1000 GP practices will begin vaccination on the 22nd March, with another 4500 added in April. According to the financial support plan, GPs will receive $31 and $24 for the first and second vaccine doses they administer.
GPs Beware of Burnout, says Black Dog Institute
Black Dog Institute, a not-for-profit organisation, has released a digital support service called The Essential Network, or TEN. TEN is designed to protect GPs from mental fatigue as they gear up to tackle the most significant health crisis of the past two years.
TEN features resources, online tools and provides support for all healthcare workers. It also grants up to five free telehealth sessions for practitioners who need additional support for their mental health.
Dr. Phoebe Holdenson Kimura, a GP based in Sydney, stated that GPs have had to adjust to new means of working while also dealing with Covid-19 related stressors.
On adapting to vaccination rollout, she said, “[we are really excited about] getting it right, but there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that… It will be unprecedented for us, and we are also going to be dealing with our normal everyday work and patients.”
GPs will also have to avoid shifting their focus to vaccination at the expense of patient and community needs. This is on top of the fear of mistakes that doctors have to deal with. As in Chris Higgins’s case, the Victorian GP who tested positive for Covid-19, there could be negative health and public consequences for errors. It’s a tightrope act with several potentials for stress.
According to Holdenson, Platforms like TEN give ‘time-poor’ GPs a support system and confidence that there is help available.
The Black Dog Institute was founded by the UNSW School of Psychiatry Scientia Professor, Gordon Parker, in 2002. It conducts medical research and health education and has been actively involved in diagnosing, preventing, and treating mood disorders.
GP vaccination training taking longer than it should
The proposed mandatory training for GPs in preparation for the vaccination rollout may be faulty. GPs have expressed concerns that the modules contain redundant information, addressing what they already know. Dr. Lara Roeske, a member of the RACGP’s Covid-19 Working Group, also stated that it might not address specific needs.
She further said that the modules reflected a lack of adequate consultation with experts. “[GPs] are the nation’s vaccinators - [they] deliver the most vaccinations.” Even though the training was designed for several health professionals, a large part of it is old news for GPs and could take up valuable time. “We don’t want [education modules] to be unnecessarily onerous or irrelevant,” she stated.
Recall Dr. Chris Moy’s interview with ABC during which he discussed the potential for vaccine waste. The vaccine amount comes down to 0.3 ml, a small dosage, which leaves room for up to 30% wastage in the syringe and needle. When maximized, six doses can be gotten from a single vial. The training was supposed to cover withdrawal techniques, as well as other aspects of the vaccination protocol.
As a leading provider of GP education, Roeske says that any training longer than 1.5 to 2 hours is unreasonable and could impact patient care delivery. She also recommended that the training focuses on pertinent issues like identifying and recruiting priority groups and addressing vaccine hesitancy.
The mandatory training was designed for vaccination providers like health professions in the hospital, general practices, pharmacies, and aboriginal community controlled health organizations.
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