A GP has condemned Bayswater council’s decision to immediately stop funding local children’s vaccination clinics.
The program cost the council about $120,000 a year and immunised about 750 to 1000 children.
Vaccination dates were scheduled to run at various clinics across Bayswater six times a month until December, but was ceased immediately following a vote at the July 18 council meeting by a narrow majority of councillors wanting to save money.
Leanne Hosking is a GP involved in running the vaccination clinics and wrote a letter to councillors saying she was “horrified” by the sudden decision which would “distress and inconvenience” clinic clients.
“The dates have been circulated for the remainder of this year,” Dr Hosking wrote. “To assist parents with the timing of vaccinations and appropriate clinic dates, reminder stickers are placed on the child health books. Some were placed in the past few weeks, and are placed for return dates up to six months’ time.
“So with no advanced notice, parents will be turning up next week with small babies and infants to a clinic that doesn’t exist.”
Dr Hosking said she runs a clinic of her own and is plenty busy, so was not writing out of her own financial interest, but out of concern for parents and children who’ll be affected by the decision.
Mayor Filomena Piffaretti said during the budget discussions the council needed to cut down on costs to not unfairly burden ratepayers.
She said the council was “subsidis[ing] immunisations on behalf of the state government” and they could start up again if other government funding was made available.
“Hard decisions have been made in pulling together this year’s budget and I stand behind them,” Cr Piffaretti said.
Dr Hosking said she appreciated the council’s right to make decisions about ratepayer funds, but the problem was the suddenness of this decision.
“These clinics have been provided by the council for over 30 years and it is well known by the community that they exist.
“Surely the clinics could have been extended to the end of the year – at least as this would cover all the advertised dates and reminders.”
Dr Hosking told the Voice the clinics had been able to immunise a lot of people who might not otherwise get vaccinations.
“We would certainly get under-vaccinated children or clients from overseas, including refugees, who may not have access to Medicare which is needed to see a GP.
“Vulnerable people were often accompanied by community workers, both paid and voluntary.
“Being co-located with the child health clinics allowed easy, familiar access to parents who might otherwise find it difficult.”
The decision to axe the clinic was controversial even on council, with six votes in favour from mayor Piffaretti and councillors Catherine Ehrhardt, Josh Eveson, Assunta Meleca, Steven Ostaszewskyj and Michelle Sutherland, and five against from councillors Dan Bull, Lorna Clarke, Giorgia Johnson, Sally Palmer and Elli Petersen-Pik.
by DAVID BELL