GP and consultant on the microeconomics of general practice, Dr Todd Cameron, has slammed the federal government’s management of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out thus far. In an entertaining and highly informative video posted in the wake of the government’s faux-online booking system announcement earlier this week, Dr Cameron described the government as “completely taking the mickey.”
The founding board member of Zenitas (ASX: ZNT) raised a number of interrelated criticisms of the government’s vaccine management. The original plan was to supply vaccines to 1,000 GP clinics, but this number was later extended to 4,500, around two-thirds of all GPs in Australia. This strained supply such that some clinics were being given just 50 vaccine doses per week.
GPs are compensated for a Covid vaccine at Medicare Level A (i.e., the lowest level). This would normally be reserved for a flu vaccine or prescription a patient has had before and gets regularly.
Level A assumes GPs will be giving “very little in the way of conversation or clinical input,” in Dr Cameron’s words. Yet GPs are also expected to go through a four-page consent document with patients, who – keep in mind – are at this stage only the most elderly and vulnerable people.
This makes the roll-out completely uneconomical for GPs according to Cameron, particularly as the federal government has not put any capital into the pot for GPs to get the ball rolling. “We’ve all put cap-ex in. We’ve bought fridges. We’re doing training. You name it. We’re paying for all of that stuff up-front,” says Cameron. “The feds have put in zero up-front risk capital with general practice. This is outrageous and completely taking the mickey.”
The failed set-up of what is, in reality, a non-existent “online booking system” was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many GPs. Announced well before it was ready to be used, according to an insider quoted in The Guardian, the web-page in fact simply links to existing online booking systems for GP clinics, if they have them. If not, the site takes users to a telephone directory of GP clinics and tells them to call, which of course they have done, completely overwhelming GPs’ offices in the process.
For the record, Australia’s total vaccinations stand at 203,557 after almost a month. Chile, which has been vaccinating for a month and a half, has given a first dose to 7.78 million people.
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