Soldiering on with Covax

A couple of Melbourne hospitals were in the news this week, both for good and for unfortunate reasons. The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital let us know that it had gone live with Cerner’s FirstNet in its emergency department and the ambulatory module in its acute ophthalmology clinic. Eye and Ear was one of the original HealthSmart hospitals but never fully rolled out the Cerner EMR as planned, instead using its PowerChart module mainly for order entry and discharge documentation.

Like some other hospitals that have had a go-live in the age of COVID, the Eye and Ear had a bit of a delay to its original plan, but it all seems to have gone smoothly since it went live last Monday. EMR project manager Neil Harris said that while FirstNet has been implemented in many EDs in big general hospitals, the specialist nature of the Eye and Ear made it a little different.

It wasn’t such a great week last week for Eastern Health, which had what it describes as a significant cyber event last Tuesday, which was still affecting systems this week. Most IT systems were taken offline as a precaution and many of them still are, affecting not just internal systems but external communications to GPs and delaying the sending out of COVID-19 test results to patients.

The problem looks likely to drag into a second week but Eastern Health says its business continuity plans have kicked into gear, and Box Hill Hospital is continuing with COVID vaccinations for staff. A second vaccination clinic opened at Maroondah Hospital this week, so it appears the health service is soldiering on under difficult circumstances.

Victorian hospitals have unfortunately been the targets of a number of cyber attacks over the last five years, including a Ryuk malware attack on Barwon Health and the Gippsland Health Alliance in 2019, a WannaCry ransomware attack on Western Health in 2018 and a Qbot worm attack on Melbourne Health in 2016. It seems likely that Eastern Health has suffered a similar fate.

There was also a bit more action with vaccination management and booking solutions this week, with MedicalDirector and HealthEngine announcing an integrated system and HotDoc releasing its own vaccination solution. Drama over the government’s vaccine clinic finder has died down a bit but there has been a bit of movement.

While it is still predominantly showing that clinics are asking for phone bookings only, we noticed a few practices offering options to book within the next seven days. We also spotted a clinic offering AutoMed, joining HealthEngine, HotDoc and MyHealth1st, and we hear that other apps like Healthsite and Medi2Apps are working on it too.

The site has proved immensely popular – the Department of Health’s deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said more than 750,000 people accessed the eligibility checker on the Wednesday and Thursday it first went live and HotDoc is reporting today that 100,000 bookings have been made through its system – but the site is still urging people not to call their practice as not all have received vaccine deliveries yet. Only 1000 of the expected 4500 practices have been listed so far, and pharmacies are still to come when Phase 2 begins in a couple of months.

That doesn’t really help the practices in places like regional NSW that experienced utter confusion last week, having been told they would get their first batches of vaccine on Friday, March 19. We know of one that set up clinics to be held on Saturday and Sunday afternoon but when the vaccine delivery arrived on Friday it wasn’t Covax but fluvax. Thankfully the practice was able to adjust and offer patients the latter in place of the former – and thankfully there isn’t much virus floating around in regional parts of the country – but it could have been a disaster.

We were assured by DoH secretary Brendan Murphy this week that the AstraZeneca vaccine is now flowing out of CSL’s manufacturing facilities in Melbourne to the tune of 830,000 doses this week alone, and promised that all Australians will at least have their first dose by the end of October. Let’s wait and see, shall we.

That brings us to our poll question for the week:

Do you think Australia’s vaccine roll-out is on track?

Vote here and feel free to leave your comments below.

Last week we asked: Will the booking system meltdown damage trust in the government’s handling of the roll-out? Most thought so: 81 per cent said yes to 19 per cent saying no.

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