Elise Van Aken: ScoMo’s handling of jabs frustrating for country patients

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Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
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Scott Morrison glossing over the pandemic.
Camera IconScott Morrison glossing over the pandemic. Credit: Don Lindsay/The West Australian

As an adopted country Aussie, I am used to waiting anywhere from a week to a month to get an appointment with a doctor.

This has certainly not been ideal on the odd occasion I’ve needed a medical certificate for work after coming down with a cold, and can be distressing for someone waiting to get a specialist referral or with a more pressing issue.

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison came out a fortnight ago with mixed messaging on who under 40 should get the COVID-19 jab, and what brand, it would have been a no-brainer for our metro friends to go and see their GP who was up-to-date with their medical history.

Who better to advise you on the best way forward for you specifically? But ScoMo telling millennials interested in an AstraZeneca jab to “just go and see their GP” like it’s as easy as turning on a tap felt like a slap in the face.

Something as simple as running water is often hard enough for regional West Australians, let alone seeing a doctor in the middle of a health crisis with the system drowning even before the pandemic hit.

A month’s wait to see the doctor on a work day for a 15-minute appointment which runs 20 minutes or more late because they are so busy, costing almost $100 with no bulk billing, is a dry pill to swallow at the best of times.

But when it’s to check if the risk of the dreaded virus is greater than developing a blood clot from AZ, do we really need people flooding our struggling health service when we should have a clear and united message from our Governments and health leaders?

Seeing someone who is not your regular GP is an option, but would they sign off on giving an unknown patient a jab that carries risks?

Telehealth appointments were expanded by the pandemic, but what a privileged position to be in to think it’s accessible and suitable for everyone.

While the PM’s advice ultimately wasn’t incorrect, it wasn’t new either.

AZ is not the preferred vaccine for under-40s, but it hasn’t been banned for them, and everyone should always consult their GP to see what’s right for them.

It’s the delivery that was the tsunami that crashed down on ScoMo’s blind-sided National Cabinet colleagues, their less-than-united front adding to the vaccine uncertainty already plaguing the so called “lucky” country which can’t yet open up to the rest of the vaccinated world.

You’d think a global pandemic would be a wake-up call to properly resource the health sector and incentivise professionals to go rural, especially in country towns where some of our nation’s most vulnerable people live, many hundreds of kilometres away from a fully equipped hospital.

“Scotty from marketing”, as the PM is sometimes known, seemed to go into hiding after that press conference, prompting many people to echo his famous tourism slogan, “where the bloody hell are ya?”

He was later caught out telling “untruths”, as the politicians like to say, with Pfizer shooting down his claims the Federal Government had struck a new deal for increased supply of the preferred vaccine for under-40s.

I myself wish he’d stay away for good and make way for someone more in touch who could tell the public what’s actually going on, not what he thinks we want to hear.

The double Pfizer-vaccinated PM would be welcome to swim in the calming waters of a Hawaiian beach, which I’ve heard he’s a fan of.

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