Government steps up duty to protect residents on two fronts

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ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith talks to nurse Maddy Williams, who was the first person in Canberra to take the Pfizer vaccination. Picture: Andrew Mathieson

THE ACT government has hired more medical staff to assist in testing Canberrans against COVID-19 cases. 

The need for 62 additional recruits comes after a number of experienced pandemic nurses will spend more time in the new vaccination program.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said nurses, who have been in charge of testing for nearly 12 months, can switch between the two roles but essentially will “be a part of the next phase in the journey”.

“We have done some additional recruitment so we can ensure have a sufficient workforce because testing is still really important,” Ms Smith said on Monday (February 22) at the launch of the first of the ACT Pfizer vaccinations.

“We still really need to encourage Canberrans to maintain all the covid-safety behaviours that we have developed over the last little while and that includes getting tested if you do have the mildest of symptoms that could be COVID-19.

“We just need to maintain that capability.”

The government plans to establish the process and be ready for an increase in the number of vaccines next month.

Canberra Hospital staff vaccinated about the first 50 patients on Monday before expecting to handle more than 250 a day over the rest of the opening week and thousands in each of the coming weeks.

The doses will be split between 1000 from the territory’s public health services and another 1000 to Canberra residential aged care and disability facilities from the Commonwealth.

“We expect that to ramp up from about week three where we want to double the amount,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

The wait for AstraZeneca vaccine to come online next month will give medical staff greater flexibility of where the vaccinations can be delivered over that it does not require a need to be held in -70 degree storage capability like Pfizer does.

The Commonwealth will then start to establish Canberra GP vaccination clinics that are a “work in progress”.

“We will continue our proper communications with Canberrans so that people know when it’s their turn to get vaccinated, where they can come and what they have to do,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.



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