The only general practice in the town of Ouse, in central Tasmania, will close next month because it violates a government mandate that all staff be vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Central Highlands General Practice says it will not be able to meet requirements that require healthcare workers to be vaccinated
- Residents of Ouse and the surrounding area fear they will now have to travel dozens of kilometers to seek treatment
- State government is looking for another supplier to fill the void
In a letter to their patients, the owners of the Central Highlands General Practice, Renier and Susan Swart said: “As of November 1, our practice will not be able to meet the requirements defined by the mandate of all workers in the health in Tasmania. health care facilities. “
“The last day the practice will be open is Friday, October 29.”
This mandate refers to the Tasmanian government directive that all healthcare workers must have received at least one dose of vaccine by October 31 to continue working.
Central Highlands Mayor Loueen Triffitt said closing the practice would be a disaster for the remote community.
“There are currently 1,200 active patients attending this practice.
“[One of the doctors] also holds the pharmacy license, so that leaves our 1,200 community members in need of a general practitioner, they have nowhere to go for the scripts, and nowhere to get the scripts filled out. “
One of the doctors, who was planning to retire, will advance his retirement to Oct. 29 to coincide with the closing of the practice, the Swarts letter said.
The letter did not specify which staff refused to be vaccinated, or their roles within the practice, and the clinic declined to comment or provide further details when contacted.
Ms Triffitt said that although the clinic would not fulfill the mandate, community members were able to receive their COVID-19 vaccines there.
“They were [delivering vaccines to patients], and they also met all vaccination requirements, ”she said.
“Anyone sick would obviously get a COVID test, so the practice did everything right. “
The Swarts said doctors at the clinic will be available for additional sessions before the clinic closes, to prepare summaries and scripts for patients.
“We have launched the process of recruiting a new doctor in Ouse to take over the management of the practice,” reads the letter to patients.
“We are also in the process of finding practices that will accept new patients and keep you informed.”
Ms Triffitt said cabinet staff would meet with Central Highlands Council tomorrow morning to discuss a way forward, and she was trying to arrange an urgent meeting with Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff.
Tim Jackson, president of the Tasmanian branch of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), said the loss of the clinic was “devastating for this community”.
“The rules are the rules and doctors and medical staff must also abide by them,” he said.
“This is a situation where… the well-being of the community must be a priority,” he said.
He said it was “concerning” to hear that a clinic could not meet the government’s vaccination mandate.
“It’s a usual situation and it’s really devastating for this community which is isolated at the best of times,” Jackson said.
He said the RACGP strongly supports compulsory vaccination for medical staff.
The Central Highlands have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, ranking third after its neighboring municipality, Southern Midlands and Kentish in the northwest.
Just over half (54.8%) of the central highland population received their first dose.
Residents worried about additional trips
For Ellendale resident Jodie O’Byrne, the clinic’s closure could force her to travel more than an hour for herself and her son.
She lives about 20 minutes down the road from Ouse.
She said she “panicked” when she learned that the operation was shutting down.
“This means the next closest doctor is a 45-minute drive away in New Norfolk,” she said.
“I tried to enter [to surgeries outside of Ouse] before… and I called downtown and learned from the doctor’s office after the doctor’s operation that “we are no longer accepting patients”.
“Not having a doctor’s office, no nurse, not having someone to check in and see if you really need urgent attention or not, that’s going to kick a lot of people out.”
In a statement, Health Minister Rockliff said the government had contacted the private clinic directly.
“The Department of Health will be looking at how it can help another supplier operate in the area, including through the continued provision of premises,” said Mr. Rockliff.
More than 99 percent of the elderly care workforce received a first dose of the vaccine following a similar mandate.