A pop-up vaccination clinic set up in less than four hours in a Reservoir basketball stadium is just another example of how community health agencies, with the support of the Victorian Government, are able to respond quickly and efficiently in a fast-changing COVID environment.
“On Monday morning, our Associate Director of Medical was standing alone on an empty basketball court assessing the site’s suitability,” said Ms Nicole Bartholomeusz, Chief Executive, cohealth.
“By midday, and with support from the Victorian Government to provide the required infrastructure, all the equipment had been transported in, marquees set up, agency staff trained, and by the end of the day 62 people had been vaccinated.”
“Our capacity for quick COVID responses can be attributed to highly honed workflows, structures and protocols that can be applied to a range of environments, complemented by our strong existing relationships with local communities.”
It is this same agility which has enabled cohealth to quickly set up pop-up vaccine clinics at four public housing high-rises this week (North Melbourne, Flemington, Collingwood, Fitzroy), ensuring the vaccine gets to people in high-density accommodation where the risk of transmission is higher.
There have been an average of 200 people vaccinated each day at the Reservoir pop-up clinic since it opened on 31 May, with the site operating as a walk-in service open to the public, while the public housing clinics are only open to residents.
Onsite each day are six nurses, one GP, one security guard, five Customer Service Officers and one cleaner.
The Reservoir clinic brings to nine the number of vaccination clinics cohealth is operating across the north and west of Melbourne; the four public housing towers plus clinics in Collingwood, West Melbourne, Flemington, and Laverton which was the first Victorian primary care site to begin Pfizer.
The non-clinical environment of public housing towers and basketball stadiums bring its own challenges, such as the absence of special medical fridges and other equipment found in a regular clinic.
As a result, keeping the AstraZeneca vaccine at the right temperature (2-8 degrees) at the Reservoir vaccination clinic is a job that needs to be managed carefully.
Every morning, Evita Arce, one of the cohealth nurses, picks up the vials of vaccines from West Melbourne, packs them in ice in an esky and drives to Reservoir. She calls them her’ babies’, because it’s her job to look after them.
Once they’ve arrived at the pop-up clinic, she babysits the esky throughout the day, moving the vials around and using a special thermomer to make sure they remain at the correct temperature.
Each vial contains 10 doses and Evita draws them up in syringes and monitors them until the nurses onsite can administer them into arms of waiting patients.
Evita is just one of the many hundreds of cohealth staff that are working across the North and west of Melbourne to support communities during the pandemic via testing, community engagement, education and vaccinations.
“We all want to see the elimination of COVID in Victoria, and we can achieve that if we continue to work together to get the vaccine out to people, and respond quickly to the rapidly changing environment,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
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cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.