A GP clinic in one of Sydney’s worst hot spots that is riddled with coronavirus has sparked outrage in the community as they charged new patients for receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
Signs outside two Blessed Health Care clinics in Campsie in the city’s southwestern state are charging $225 for an appointment to get the Pfizer vaccine, and $80 for the second dose appointment.
This is despite government regulations that there is no cost at all to get the vaccine, not even an administration or booking fee.
The consultation and registration price increases to $250 for a first dose and $120 for a second dose on weekends.
The sign says that the Covid-19 vaccination itself is free.
A woman in her twenties claimed she paid $250 to get the Pfizer shot from the Blessed Health Care clinic on Evaline Street after standing in line last weekend.
The Malaysian woman, who works as a tiler, said she didn’t want to wait months to get the vaccine, given the high rate of virus transmission where she lives.
These signs at the Blessed Health Care clinics in Campsie (pictured) have sparked public outcry
“I wanted it fast, to be safer, so I paid the money,” she told AAP.
The woman has a bridging visa and does not have Medicare.
She says her colleagues, including Malaysian citizens on temporary visas, have been vaccinated in the same way.
She will return to the clinic in six weeks for her second dose, when she will be charged at least $60, she said.
“It’s not fair, it should be free,” she added.
Cumberland councilor Kun Huang told AAP the issue has been raised in at least three different groups on the Chinese-language app WeChat, with employees from Auburn and Lidcombe considering going to Campsie to get the jab.
He has received bills from people who received the Pfizer vaccine at Blessed Health, showing that they charged $225 between July 24 and 26.
This Blessed Health Care clinic (pictured) in Anglo Road is one of two in Campsie to charge 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 those who do not have a Medicare card, and applies regardless of visa status.
“Clinics cannot charge a patient any costs associated with the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine, including booking fees,” a spokesperson for the federal health department said.
“The Department of Health has made the requirements of the program clear to GPs and the vast majority are doing the right thing.”
The department’s webpage states that the consultation appointment for patients to get the vaccination is free.
Jacob Chen, a nurse at Blessed Care’s Anglo Street clinic, said the practice couldn’t give the vaccine to new patients without first having a medical history. As it is a private practice, the consultation is not billed in bulk.
“The vaccine itself is free,” he said.
The Covid-19 vaccine is free for everyone, including people who don’t have a Medicare card and applies regardless of visa status (stock image)
dr. Ben Ang, who works in Evaline Street, said his clinic served a marginalized community.
“We are not the villain, we are the helper,” he said.
The Chinese-speaking construction workers who come to his clinic are ‘screaming for help’, thinking they need to be poked for their jobs, but struggle to book a vaccination center through English-language websites.
dr. Ang said he was inundated with “hundreds and hundreds” of people showing up as the news spread to the local community.
In just a few days, he has exhausted the vaccine for the next two weeks. He called on the government to give the area more vaccines.
The clinic’s receptionist said anyone who doesn’t want to pay fees can go elsewhere.
“We are a private institution and we have to pay our staff,” she said.
“If they don’t have Medicare, I can’t offer this facility for free.”
Mr Huang said the NSW government needs to better communicate in languages other than English around vaccination, particularly the degree of risk surrounding AstraZeneca.
Campsie is located in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, where Covid-19 infections have skyrocketed in recent weeks. Pictured are the streets of Campsie on Tuesday
Campsie is in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA which has seen a worrying spike in new infections.
Hundreds of local residents have been plunged into isolation after Campsie Center Shopping Mall was listed as a close contact exposure site after multiple infected cases visited the site between July 14 and July 24.
Canterbury MP Sophie Cotsis, whose polling station is in Campsie, has been inundated with voters who said they had paid for the vaccine.
“Nobody should be asking for money to vaccinate the community,” said Ms Cotsis.
“The federal government must pass that information on to anyone administering the vaccine.
“In the midst of a pandemic, people who are struggling should not be taken advantage of.”
Campsie Center Shopping Mall (pictured) was listed as a close contact exposure site after multiple infected cases visited the site between July 14 and July 24.