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Coronavirus Australia: GP clinic in Sydney’s Covid-ravaged south-west charging for vaccine

A GP clinic in one of Sydney’s worst hotspots riddled with coronavirus has sparked community outrage for charging new patients to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Signs outside two Blessed Health Care clinics in Campsie in the city’s south-west state they charge $225 for an appointment to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and $80 for the second dose appointment.

This is despite government rules that there are to be no costs at all associated with getting the vaccine, even admin or booking fee costs.

The price for consultation and registration increases on weekends to $250 for a first dose and up to $120 for a second dose.

The sign stipulates the Covid-19 vaccination itself is free.

A woman in her 20s claimed she paid $250 to receive the Pfizer jab from the Blessed Health Care clinic at Evaline Street after waiting in line last weekend.

The Malaysian woman, who works as a tiler, said she did not want to wait months to get the vaccine given the high rates of virus transmission where she lives.

These signs at the Blessed Health Care clinics in Campsie (pictured) have sparked public outrage

‘I wanted to get it quickly, to be safer, so I paid the money,’ she told AAP.

The woman is on a bridging visa and does not have Medicare. 

She says her colleagues, also Malaysian citizens on temporary visas, have been vaccinated in the same way.

She will return to the clinic for her second dose in six weeks, when she’ll be charged at least $60, she said.

‘It’s not fair, it should be free,’ she  added. 

Cumberland councillor Kun Huang told AAP the issue has been raised in at least three different groups on the Chinese-language app WeChat, with workers from Auburn and Lidcombe contemplating going to Campsie to get the jab.

He has been sent invoices from people who received the Pfizer vaccine at Blessed Health, which show they were charged $225 between July 24 and 26.

This Blessed Health Care clinic (pictured) in Anglo Road is one of two in Campsie that charges new patients for 'consultation and registration' of the free Pfizer vaccine

This Blessed Health Care clinic (pictured) in Anglo Road is one of two in Campsie that charges new patients for ‘consultation and registration’ of the free Pfizer vaccine

The item description is either a ‘new patient registration fee’ or a ‘Level C Surgery’ – a Medicare item for a long consultation.

The Covid-19 vaccine is free for everyone, including people who do not have a Medicare card and applies regardless of visa status.

‘Clinics cannot charge a patient any cost associated with the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine, including booking fees,’ a a federal health department spokesperson said.

‘The Department of Health has made the requirements under the program clear with GPs and the overwhelming majority are doing the right thing.’

The department’s web page states that the consult appointment for patients to receive the vaccination is free.

A nurse at Blessed Care’s Anglo Street clinic, Jacob Chen said the practice could not give the vaccine to new patients without first taking a medical history. Because it is a private practice, it does not bulk bill for the consultation.

‘The vaccine itself is free,’ he said.

The Covid-19 vaccine is free for everyone, including people who do not have a Medicare card and applies regardless of visa status (stock image)

The Covid-19 vaccine is free for everyone, including people who do not have a Medicare card and applies regardless of visa status (stock image)

Dr Ben Ang, who works at Evaline Street, said his clinic was serving a marginalised community.

‘We are not the villain, we are the helper,’ he said.

The Chinese-speaking construction workers who come to his clinic ‘cry out for help’ because they believe they need to be jabbed for their jobs, but struggle to book into into vaccine hubs through English-language websites.

Dr Ang said he has been overwhelmed with ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of people turning up as word has spread among the local community.

In just a few days, he has exhausted the vaccine provided for the next two weeks. He called on the government to provide more vaccine to the area.

The clinic’s receptionist said anyone who doesn’t not want to pay fees can go elsewhere.

‘We are a private facility and we need to pay our staff,’ she said. 

‘If they don’t have Medicare, I cannot provide this facility for free.’

Mr Huang said the NSW government should conduct better outreach in languages other than English around vaccination, particularly the degree of risks around AstraZeneca.

Campsie is in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, where Covid-19 infections have soared in recent weeks. Pictured are the streets of Campsie on Tuesday

Campsie is in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, where Covid-19 infections have soared in recent weeks. Pictured are the streets of Campsie on Tuesday

Campsie is in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, which has seen a worrying spike of new infections.

Hundreds of locals have been plunged into isolation after Campsie Centre Shopping Mall was listed as a close contact exposure site after multiple infected cases visited the venue between July 14 and July 24.

Canterbury MP Sophie Cotsis, whose electoral office is in Campsie has been inundated with constituents who said they had paid for the vaccine.

‘No one should be charging to vaccinate the community,’ Ms Cotsis said.

‘The federal government needs to relay that information to everyone that’s administering the vaccine.

‘In the middle of a pandemic, people who are struggling should not be taken advantage of.’  

Campsie Centre Shopping Mall (pictured) was listed as a close contact exposure site after multiple infected cases visited the venue between July 14 and July 24.

Campsie Centre Shopping Mall (pictured) was listed as a close contact exposure site after multiple infected cases visited the venue between July 14 and July 24.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk