Dongara GP forced to bin COVID vaccines following power outage

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
A Dongara GP clinic was forced to dispose of its COVID vaccine stock following a power outage.
Camera IconA Dongara GP clinic was forced to dispose of its COVID vaccine stock following a power outage. Credit: Matilde Campodonico/AP

EXCLUSIVE

A Dongara medical practice was forced to throw out hundreds of COVID vaccine doses after a power outage left the Mid West town in the dark for more than 24 hours.

Five Gums Family Medical Practice has been vaccinating between 240 and 400 people every fortnight, with about 95 per cent of Shire of Irwin residents now double vaxxed.

Practice manager Chris Swarts said the clinic — which is the sole general practice in Dongara — had received an influx of bookings since the State Government introduced expanded mandates and proof of vaccination requirements.

But all bookings were scrapped following a power outage which drained the clinic’s vaccine fridge of electricity on January 27.

The back-up power supply to the fridge only lasts about eight hours, and power was not restored until noon the following day.

Mr Swarts said the vaccines must be stored according to strict guidelines, and all stock therefore became unviable.

“We lost all the stock we received for that fortnight, so we had to push back the appointments of patients that had vaccine jabs booked,” he said.

“As with the rest of the State, we are now doing a lot of booster jabs and there is still a long way to go on that... and that’s why it was so devastating to lose the vaccines.

“The Health Department is aware we have had losses and they have managed to assist us to get emergency stock, but that only arrived at the end of the week.”

Residents have for decades been plagued by unreliable power supply, with locals saying the situation had only worsened since cyclone Seroja cut power and communications to the town for almost a week.

The State Opposition on Wednesday launched a petition in support of an independent review into WA’s regional electricity network.

Shadow minister for energy Dr David Honey said the inquiry would go beyond the State Government’s upcoming report into outages experienced across WA over Christmas.

“The State Government’s review is constrained to a four-day window from December 24 to 28. It goes nowhere near far enough in addressing the ongoing power reliability regional residents have been struggling with for several years,” he said.

“An independent inquiry would consider the preparedness and responsiveness of electricity providers when power outages occur, the appropriateness of the extended outage payment, and make recommendations to improve the performance of the regional electricity network.”

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