Those using the Pharmacy Guild of Australia system will be reimbursed overnight, but pharmacists using the MedAdvisor system will not receive payment until 10 July.
Leichhardt pharmacist Christine Kelly said she had spent $10,000 to order 1,000 additional vaccines before the expected surge in demand, for which she would have to wait six weeks to recoup the costs.
While she was hoping to be able to offer free flu shots, she said waiting for reimbursement would be “considerable trouble” for her small business.
MedAdvisor CEO Rob Reed said it needed to use its existing monthly payment schedule to “meet the tough deadline” of the program. Ninety-nine percent of its vaccination pharmacies in NSW have signed up to offer the free shot.
“Of course, it’s been a rapid change, and like any policy that’s implemented quickly, it’s going to come with warts,” said David Heffernan, president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s NSW branch of free flu shots.
Heffernan agreed it was always going to be a “patchwork”, with ongoing discussions about how to manage border areas – Victoria and Queensland each offering their own reimbursement programs – and whether People without a Medicare card are now eligible.
More than 21,000 flu infections were reported in NSW in May, more than the total number of infections recorded in the first five months of 2019.
Some of the increase is due to more widespread testing, with COVID-19 PCR tests now also returning results for the flu and the common childhood infection RSV. However, hospitalizations for an influenza-like illness suggest that flu season is in full swing.
Infections and ongoing high levels of COVID-19 transmission – NSW had more than 300,000 cases during May – have continued to put pressure on Sydney’s emergency departments this week.
33 children waiting for emergency care after being evaluated by a triage nurse at The Children’s Hospital in Westmead at 5.30pm on Monday. By 10 pm, 28 children were waiting in Westmead and 24 at Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick.
“Like all emergency departments in NSW, the Sydney Children’s Hospitals network has seen a significant increase in people with flu-like symptoms in their emergency departments,” said a spokesperson for Children’s Hospitals. “Priority is given to children based on clinical urgency, with the sickest children always being seen first. Our staff is making every effort to see all children as quickly as possible.”
Sutherland Hospital in the south of the city declared a “code yellow” on Monday, prompting staff from other parts of the hospital to be referred to the emergency department for assistance.