Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine coronavirus
(Image: AP/Esteban Felix)

The doctor who gave two elderly patients up to four times the correct dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the Holy Spirit nursing home in Carseldine, Brisbane, hadn’t completed the required vaccination training.

The doctor was recruited by specialist workforce recruitment agency Healthcare Australia, which the federal government has given the job of recruiting and supplying the extra vaccination workforce.

It’s a huge error to happen just a week into Australia’s vaccination rollout — but it’s not the first mistake made by Healthcare Australia during the pandemic.

An untrained doctor

States and territories are in charge of rolling out the vaccine for the general population, although the federal government is in charge of inoculating residents and workers in aged care and disability accommodation.

Four providers — Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, International SOS and Sonic Clinical Services — have the job of organising the workforce. Healthcare Australia are organising staff in NSW and Queensland.

Those administering the vaccine have to complete an online training course provided by the Australian College of Nursing, which takes about three hours. Although Healthcare Australia initially said all health professionals had completed the required training, it later advised Health Minister Greg Hunt that the Brisbane doctor had not.

The doctor completed the training the day after administering the incorrect doses to an 88-year-old man and a 94-year-old woman. The vaccine comes in multi-dose vials, with six doses in each vial. A nurse stepped in after noticing the mistake. It’s not known exactly how much of the vaccine was administered.

The pair are not likely to experience adverse side effects but have been hospitalised as a precaution.

A series of mistakes

Healthcare Australia has also been given the job by states of providing staff for hotel quarantine programs. In April it was slammed after a man with COVID-19 went into a coma after waiting for nine hours to get to hospital in Perth.

The doctor caring for the hotel quarantine guests said she was single-handedly looking after 600 cruise ship patients. She was given two hours’ notice to turn up at the Crown hotels and was the only doctor on site.

“I wasn’t given any guidelines or protocols, procedures — there was no PPE, there was actually nothing,” she said.

“I just turned up to the hotel and it was sort of like, ‘Well what do I do next?’ and they said, ‘Well you go and figure it out.’ “

Her contract was terminated by Healthcare Australia.

WA Health said it had asked Healthcare Australia make changes to its rostered personnel, saying it was “not meeting the expectations of the state”.

In Victoria last month, Healthcare Australia staff lodged complaints with WorkSafe about being forced to move between offices and quarantine hotels. COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria has started building offices to address the complaints and was given a warning notice.

Healthcare Australia and the Department of Health have been approached for comment by Crikey.