DELIVERY delays, mishaps and mix-ups continue to plague the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in general practices in Hunter New England, staff say.
Hunter GPs, nurses, and practice managers have told ACM that a disorganised vaccine delivery system has meant dates and times for deliveries have "come and gone" with no sign of the expected doses or "consumables" such as syringes. In at least one case, the AstraZeneca vaccine was delivered to the wrong medical practice altogether.
Angela Kirkpatrick, of Cardiff General Practice, said they were scheduled to receive the vaccine on March 26. They still don't have them.
"We called them a few times on Friday to get an idea of what time they would come, as we had heard stories from other practices about them coming really late at night or really early in the morning or on weekends, when they weren't actually open," the practice manager said. "They wanted to come on Saturday instead, which wasn't going to work, then they were supposed to come on Monday - which technically they did, just not to us."
The vaccines were delivered to a nearby practice instead. Ms Kirkpatrick said the delivery driver had mixed up the address, and because the other practice was expecting vaccines to arrive too, they had signed for them.
"The other practice was lovely," she said. "They were so apologetic and said, 'You can have them!'. But the rules with COVID vaccines are really strict, so if they have been unpacked and removed from the delivery box, they can't be transferred. Even if we had a multi-site practice, we can't transfer them between our own sites. Let alone two different practices.
"So the next scheduled delivery, if they come on time, to the right address, is for the 9th of April."
The delivery debacle had put them back from when they could start taking appointments for the vaccine.
"Some of our patients have gone to other practices to get it because they are super keen, and that's fine, there are still plenty of people who will need it and it is going to keep us busy for a long time yet," she said. "But people are wanting to get it, and they would prefer to get it at their regular doctor."
Staff at other medical practices have also told the Herald their vaccines had arrived more than a week later than expected. One said some couriers were better than others. Most practices were opting not to book in patients until they actually had the vaccine "on site and in the fridge".
Frustrated Cardiff General Practice GP, Dr Allan Kirkpatrick, said "they couldn't organise a drink in a pub".
"These big courier companies may be capable of getting frozen peas to Woolworths but not vaccines to general practice," he said.