Paperwork a barrier to COVID-19 vaccine rollout, say some family doctors

·2 min read
On Saturday, Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth had more than 200 people scheduled come to her practice in the Glebe, part of what she calls a “Jabapalooza.” She'd like to host a second one but says family doctors are in need of administrative support.   (Ismael Sy/Radio-Canada  - image credit)
On Saturday, Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth had more than 200 people scheduled come to her practice in the Glebe, part of what she calls a “Jabapalooza.” She'd like to host a second one but says family doctors are in need of administrative support. (Ismael Sy/Radio-Canada - image credit)

With primary care clinics now receiving thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses, some Ottawa doctors say all the extra work keeping up with the province's system has placed a big strain on their practices.

"It was a tremendous effort," said Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, a family physician in Manotick.

"It's the issue of getting [the patients] all registered."

Abdulla said he first offered doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to his own patients, but after some were hesitant he opened appointments up to the general public.

In less than two days, he had 300 spots filled, Abdulla said.

But the challenge, he said, is registering those 300 people's health cards and other personal information, then transferring it into the government system.

It's time-sensitive work, he added, and unlike pharmacy chains, individual family practices don't have the ability to create online portals to make it go more smoothly.

"All the extra hurdles and regulations create unnecessary burden and really dissuades family doctors from participating in something that they just don't have the manpower or the big pockets [to handle]."

Dr. Alykhan Abdulla says it took his team between 100 to 120 hours to do the paper work for approximately 300 people who signed up to be vaccinated.
Dr. Alykhan Abdulla says it took his team between 100 to 120 hours to do the paper work for approximately 300 people who signed up to be vaccinated.(Tia Photography)

12 primary care sites have received doses

According to the City of Ottawa, more than 11,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been sent to 12 primary care sites — including the Glebe practice of Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, who vaccinated dozens of people Saturday at an event called "Jabapalooza."

While she's pleased another 220 people will hopefully avoid ending up in an intensive care ward, the work's been taxing on her team, which includes both her husband and 12-year-old daughter.

"We put this together, but it's been very long days," she said. "And that's mostly because of the bureaucracy. It's not because of the actual giving of the needles; it's all the paperwork that's involved."

With the time constraints involved in rolling out vaccines, it would be helpful if doctors could be provided additional administrative support, Kaplan-Myrth said.

She'd like to hold another "Jabapalooza," but said it isn't sustainable for her team to stay up until 11 p.m. each night.

Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth describes family doctors as an 'untapped resource' when it comes to the vaccine rollout, but also says more administrative support would be helpful.
Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth describes family doctors as an 'untapped resource' when it comes to the vaccine rollout, but also says more administrative support would be helpful. (Ismael Sy/Radio-Canada)

Not all family doctors will necessarily be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines, said Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services.

"The provincial requirements for COVID-19 immunization in primary care clinics are more complex than influenza vaccine requirements," Di Monte wrote in an email.

"And as such, it is possible that not all primary care providers will be able to provide vaccines to their patients."