Bubble bursts behind the ring of steel

The pain for the locked down people of NSW continued this week and got worse on Friday, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian calling the situation in her state a national emergency, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews calling for a ring of steel around greater Sydney and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern bursting the trans-Tasman bubble and rolling up the shutters on quarantine-free travel for the next two months.

Yesterday, Ms Berejiklian pleaded with Sydneysiders to get vaccinated, including under 40s to consider getting AstraZeneca, which Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the state was “awash” with. “If you’re under 40 and want AstraZeneca, please, please check with your GP,” she said. “If your GP gives you the green light, please get the vaccine. Please, please, come forward and get vaccinated.”

It appears people are taking that advice. HotDoc is reporting that as of Friday, July 23, almost 3.5 million COVID vaccine appointments had been made through clinics using its booking system alone, and 1,995,745 had attended to date. General practices are now doing the bulk of vaccinations around the country, with community pharmacists also now starting up.

We noticed with interest a tweet by writer Benjamin Law, who said he had booked in to get AZ despite his GP dissuading him previously due to his age. This followed a Twitter discussion earlier on in the week about some of the horrors experienced with the NSW booking system, which closely mirrored our correspondent’s experience from a fortnight ago.

A common problem reported was not being able to book a first Pfizer shot because the system required you to book a second dose at the same time, even though there were no second dose appointments available. Like our correspondent, many were incredibly frustrated by having to repeat their details when trying to book in with a different service.

Links have been going around on social media that appear to take you directly to the part of the system you would normally go to after answering the eligibility questionnaire that determines whether you are phase 1a or 1b. It is anecdotal to be sure but younger people have been able to book in for Pfizer using this and other back doors into the system, and vaccine staff are not batting an eyelid when they turn up.

It seems that Sydney Local Health District’s system, which uses a booking solution from Brisbane firm Five Faces, is one of the few that is going smoothly, although we did see some criticism of the same system at the Sydney Olympic Park, which is run by Sydney LHD. Go figure. The rest of the systems appear to be plagued by issues, and we understand that NSW Health is now looking at rolling out a solution using US giant ServiceNow.

Meanwhile, the Australian Senate COVID Committee heard today that only 27.8 per cent of aged care workers have been fully vaccinated. Most residents have, but it is the workers who are the main concern now. It has been left up to them to organise their own vaccinations with their GPs in many cases, and as frontline workers they should all be doing so.

However, this workforce is increasingly made up of younger personal care assistants, many new immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and Nepal, and most without a regular GP. It is not an optimal situation.

The frustrations with Australia’s vaccination “stroll-out” and the IT to support it were reflected in some of the comments on our poll from last week. Many decried the political point scoring between federal and state governments and many commented on the disjointed program but others were more happy: “Simple where I live in Toowoomba. Rang up GP and got an appointment for AV. Process took about 1/2 hour including the wait time. No dramas.”

That said, our poll question last week asked: Has the vaccine roll out in Australia and New Zealand been handled competently? A big majority – 78 per cent – said no. (Most comments were from Australia so while New Zealand has been slow, it does not appear to be considered incompetent.)

In other news this week, Telstra Health announced that it was stumping up $95 million for a 70 per cent stake in hospital billing solution specialist PowerHealth. This Adelaide company has been racking up some very nice deals overseas in the last few years, particularly in Canada and Saudi Arabia, and is widely used in the Australian hospital sector, including as the billing solution of choice for Dedalus in Australia and New Zealand.

Telstra Health appears to be on the lookout again for good investments, but we’ll be interested to see if the money poured into PowerHealth means that Telstra Health continues to be interested in MedicalDirector. Chatter has gone deathly quiet on that front, but if you know anything we don’t, give us a buzz.

That brings us to our poll question for this week:

Will Telstra Health’s renewed interest in acquisitions pay dividends?

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