Red tape, logistics issues major hurdles to GP participation in Covid-19 vaccine drive, says association

A general view of the vaccination centre at  the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur May 30, 2021. —  Picture by Firdaus Latif
A general view of the vaccination centre at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur May 30, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — While the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) is accelerating its vaccination drive, a private general practitioner (GP) clinics association has said that bureaucracy and logistical problems were still hampering this class of physicians from supporting the effort.

In a recent interview with Malay Mail, Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Association (FPMPAM) president Dr Steven Chow Kim Weng recounted the “hassle” private healthcare operators faced in order to be certified as a qualified vaccinator under the NIP.

“There is no denying the fact that there is a lot of red tape and unnecessary processes into the vaccination programme for GPs to even start,” Dr Chow said when contacted.

These factors, he said, have discouraged some of the association’s members from participating in the vaccination programme despite initially being interested following assurance from the government that vaccine supplies will increase in the coming months.

This also comes after NIP coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin said only 2,467 GPs have registered for the cause to date.

Bureaucratic nightmare

Outlining the vaccine procurement process, Dr Chow said GPs were required to attend training with ProtectHealth Corporation Sdn Bhd (ProtectHealth), during which they would be subsequently informed of the different parties involved in the overall vaccination chain.

ProtectHealth is an initiative under the Health Ministry that is coordinating with private hospitals to ramp up the vaccination drive and achieve herd immunity for Malaysia.

When asked to elaborate, Dr Chow revealed a total of five separate stages — inclusive of training with ProtectHealth — that GPs must “clear” before being allowed to formally administer Covid-19 vaccines.

After attending the training, GPs must obtain approval from the Health Ministry’s Private Medical Practice Control Section (CKAPS) responsible for auditing private clinics.

CKAPS would determine whether they fulfill several prerequisites — sufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) and vaccination equipment, suitability of premises and patients’ flow plans during the vaccination process — before designating them as vaccination centres.

Then, the clinics must go on to get further approvals from their respective state health departments.

With both approvals in hand, Dr Chow said a GP would then need to liaise with the MySejahtera app to obtain a list of named individuals to be vaccinated, ranging from 50 to 55 people that are provided on a weekly basis.

Finally, with approvals and name list now in possession, the respective GPs would need to liaise with the Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Programme at the nearest vaccine storage facilities to provide the indent for Covid-19 vaccines based on the list from MySejahtera before collecting the vaccines for inoculation.

“We ask, is there a necessity for having five different parties to organise such a simple vaccine programme?” Dr Chow lamented.

He expressed FPMPAM’s agreement with the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) on the excessive “red tape” in the way of the vaccination drive and said Khairy should take the necessary steps to mitigate the issue so the NIP would achieve its intended objective.

Logistical burden

Dr Chow also revealed that all logistical aspects of the immunisation programme have to be shouldered by the respective GPs, which includes transporting the vaccines and purchasing the specialised medical equipment needed.

Accordingly, the estimated costs of new equipment that GPs were required to procure include medical-grade vaccine cooler box costing between RM800 to RM1,200 each, electronic temperature data logger costing between RM100 and RM150 each and varying traveling expenditures incurred during vaccine collection.

On top of that, the government has not provided any subsidies or grants for GPs to offset such expenses beyond the incentive of RM14 per vaccine dose administered, which led to hesitancy among certain association members.

Under the vaccination drive, GPs were required to personally collect the vaccine doses on a specific day with their own cold boxes, which Dr Chow said could be better spent administering the vaccines.

“In normal circumstances, pharmaceutical distributors regularly send vaccine stocks to GP clinics as and when needed in their own customised coldbox,” he said, adding that it was not the responsibility of doctors to go to the collection centres for the Covid-19 vaccine stock.

However, he implored the government to make the entire vaccination process as simple and seamless as possible so the government could achieve its intended inoculation target of 150,000 shots a day.

Ideally, he said any patients could walk in to their respective GPs, get assessed, have their jabs and update their data on MySejahtera in a single uninterrupted process.

“It is as simple as that,” he said.

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