‘Totally unhelpful’: backlash at NSW minister’s ‘not enough GPs’ comment

Jolyon Attwooll

22/07/2021 4:50:45 PM

There was a strong reaction to Brad Hazzard’s ‘political’ remarks about the number of GPs involved in the vaccination rollout.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard angered GPs by intimating that not enough had been participating in the COVID vaccine rollout. (Image: AAP)

‘Flatly wrong’: that is how one GP reacted to a statement made by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, which appeared to query the contribution of general practice.
After telling gathered media that he would be ‘careful’ with his words, Minister Hazzard said the supply of Pfizer and number of GPs participating in the rollout were among the challenges facing the vaccination rollout in the state.
‘The big issue is, there is plenty of AstraZeneca around. It’s the Pfizer [supply]. And AstraZeneca is obviously principally being delivered through GPs,’ he said on Wednesday. ‘There are not enough GPs to actually deliver the AstraZeneca.’
Minister Hazzard also made a point of specifically thanking medical staff at state-run vaccination clinics but made no acknowledgement towards GPs participating in the rollout.
The remarks were widely reported and later amplified on social media, perhaps most notably by journalist Michelle Grattan.

Among many to query the statement was Dr Tim Senior, who pointed out GPs are administering most of the vaccines in Australia, despite dealing with supply issues, as well as conducting most of the conversations about vaccine hesitancy. Supply was mentioned several times, with one doctor calling the statement false and accusing Minister Hazzard of ‘gaslighting GPs’.
There were many non-medical contributors to the debate too, with one saying she was sorry GPs ‘were being thrown under a bus’.
Geelong-based practice owner Dr Cameron Loy was among those unhappy with the way the remarks were reported, telling newsGP Minister Hazzard was ‘flatly wrong’.
‘It goes unchallenged and it goes uncontested, whereas we know that GPs are the largest mass vaccination service in the country and we have delivered more than 50% of the vaccines that have currently been delivered,’ Dr Loy said.
‘We are efficient [and] we are actually cheap as well – we are orders of magnitude cheaper than the mass vaccination clinics.
‘What annoys me is when the fourth estate doesn’t challenge it properly. My expectation is they would start trying to work out if there was any validity in that statement.’
For Dr Ken McCroary, a practice owner in Campbelltown in Sydney, the remarks highlighted an all-too-common misunderstanding of primary healthcare.
‘Comments like that are totally unhelpful and interpreted as being quite demoralising and disrespectful, and show a complete lack of understanding about those facing these comments throughout the entire pandemic,’ he told newsGP.
Dr McCroary said he wished politicians across the political spectrum took more care with the way they framed their messaging.
‘Vaccination should be bipartisan and that includes a broader team of political leaders and those engaged with face-to-face on-the-ground COVID prevention and treatment,’ he said.
‘These random comments from our leaders haven’t helped in a program that has been struggling since day one in the middle of a pandemic when everyone should be on the same side.’
Dr Loy also believes there is an issue with the way Minister Hazzard referenced the state vaccination centres; the NSW Health Minister said they were ‘set up to backfill and to fill in because the Federal Government was not getting enough vaccine out through the GPs’.
‘I don’t understand the necessity of these politicians to try and frame things in that manner because it just doesn’t help,’ Dr Loy said.
‘The state vaccination hubs were always an important part of the rollout. They were always going to be an important part of the rollout.
‘Mass vaccination centres aren’t there because there weren’t enough GPs. Mass vaccination centres are there because they were always part of the plan – so I don’t understand why the existence of mass vaccination clinics needs to be couched in those terms. It doesn’t make any sense.’
Dr Loy meanwhile said he would be delighted to have more people involved in the rollout, but that supply remains the key issue.  
‘We are going to have pharmacies and nurse vaccinators – everybody – getting involved in giving the vaccine, if we have enough,’ he said.
Other commentators also pointed out that community pharmacies were asked to be part of the rollout in January.
The original question asked of Minister Hazzard was whether the 150,000 Pfizer vaccine doses which the Federal Government announced would be directed to New South Wales had gone into people’s arms – a query he did not answer directly.
The Department of Health last week said it would be ‘bringing forward’ an additional 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for areas worst affected by the recent surge in cases. This was set to include 150,000 Pfizer and 150,000 AstraZeneca ‘to support the NSW Government’s response to the current outbreak’.
The Federal announcement said the vaccines ‘would be targeted where they are most needed, based upon direction from NSW Health’.
The latest vaccination statistics show a record number of doses were administered in primary care on Wednesday, with a total of 104,840 delivered in 24 hours.
The state-led vaccinations have been led by Victoria in raw numerical terms, where the hubs account for 1,453,158 of the total delivered. The number of vaccinations being administered in NSW hubs is now faster, however, with 23,549 people receiving a dose on Wednesday.
Dr Talitha Barrett, a GP based in Central Victoria who also responded to Ms Grattan’s social media post, said the current high level of cases means it is time for all ‘hands on deck’.
‘It’s a secondary benefit with the outbreak that it has got people out for vaccinations,’ Dr Barrett told newsGP.
‘People were a bit funny, even about Pfizer – but once they see it in the community, they change their minds, which makes a huge difference.’
Log in below to join the conversation.

Brad Hazzard general practice vaccine rollout


Login to comment

A.Prof Ralph Gustav Audehm   23/07/2021 9:46:02 AM

and if they distributed the vaccine through the normal channels of GP vaccinations the number vaccinated by now would have been much greater and the more vulnerable would have had easier access

Rural GP   23/07/2021 11:00:16 AM

Brad Hazzard comments are outrageous. I am pretty sure all patients can get AZ through a local General Practice. This is just politics. GP’s are doing the bulk of the vaccinating and all the counseling . Hubs just inject. Our little rural practice is getting 300 Pfizer a week and is swamped but making sure we get every dose into arms every week. I think we are doing more Pfizer than our local hospital hub. ( has NSW health walked away down here?) Its crazy. We cant keep running this fast, staff are dropping off and we haven’t even faced the prospect of Covid at out doorstep and we are running a practice .
We are now trying to run all out clinics outside in the car park for safety.

Dr Tawhid Mohamed Sayed Hassanien   23/07/2021 11:39:47 AM

so now POLITICIANS would like to blame their failure on GPs. We said " get me the tools and I will do the job" we still waiting ...

Dr Campbell Robert Crilly   23/07/2021 6:07:33 PM

Prof Audehm's comment are correct. Why roll the vaccination programme out through the PHN and not the usual vaccination channel for GP's. It has been complex and unnecessarily convoluted.

Dr Jitendra Natverlal Parikh   23/07/2021 9:42:07 PM

I think the pharmacy lobby is behind this.They have not been getting their share of the vaccine administration and are creating the image of GP not interested and pharmacist should be asked to share the load

Dr Jane Elizabeth Christiansen   23/07/2021 11:33:47 PM

Politicians blame. GPs just get on with the job. RACGP and AMA however need to set the record straight. Tell it as it is. Hard working GPs and their very hard working staff do not deserve this treatment. And this blame game will only cause further abuse and resentment toward GP Practices. Let’s be clear and transparent. AMA and RACGP please respond to this falsehood- you are the appropriate organisations to do so.

Dr Aline Suan Lin Smith   27/07/2021 12:13:27 AM

Shame on you Brad Hazzard.
Why don't you come and talk to hardworking GPs , nurses and reception staff instead of sprouting words from ignorance of what GP practices are
doing....can't begin to describe the pressures we have all been under.
300 to 500 calls each day to my practice since we were given early delivery of Pfizer in July , abuse from ppl wanting scarce supplies not enough for our patients, abuse by others who were not eligible yet through GP roll out but insists they were because ATAGI said so, then again trying to keep our patients and staff safe struggling without enough PPE to try and to run a mass vaccination clinic afterhours within our current facilities , running outreach to patients with severe mental health and intellectual disability at their boarding houses totally ignored by state and federal , our house bound patients . We are reaching the most hesitant and vulnerable sections of community invisible to you Brad Hazzard and to most politicians.