04:59PM, Wednesday 13 January 2021
All residents in Maidenhead care homes for the elderly have now been vaccinated with their first dose with a frontline GP describing it as the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
Dr Anu Swamy formed part of a team administering the life-saving jab across three days to care home residents.
Saturday was the main day with four teams led by four doctors working from 8.30am till 6pm at night.
Dr Swamy said: “Its very satisfying, for every 20 patients vaccinated they say you save one life. In a street of only 20 that is one life saved. We could not ignore that, we had to be vaccinating, it’s the only thing we can do as GPs to help our colleagues at hospitals.
“All the care homes themselves have been so well prepared. They kept everything well organised and all the forms we needed from Maidenhead GPs were ready.
“We had to count exactly the number we needed, we couldn’t take any extra doses but the people working in the backend did a fantastic job, everything was in one place so I only had to calculate the vials I had to take.”
Dr Swamy, who works at Cookham Medical Centre three days a week, has been spending the rest of her time vaccinating residents at the Desborough Suite – which is the town’s main vaccination centre.
“I do get my rest,” she added. “Last week I didn’t get the chance because we got supply of the vaccine and we had to use it so most of our doctors who are involved decided to do it as soon as possible rather than take a break and we finished on Saturday by chance, so I rested on Sunday.
“It’s very tiring, you don’t realise at the time but it’s the amount of focus, it’s like driving on a motorway, you are completely focused on that but once you come home you are so drained.”
On Saturday 404 patients were given the vaccine in care homes and a further 372 at the Desborough Suite.
“It’s a good feeling I have to say,” added Dr Swamy.
“All GPs involved with the Desborough Suite, we are sending our staff to work at the centre at least two days a week. All partners are very keen to get involved and on our days off most of us are working there.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel. What more can we do? We have staff working on annual leave who don’t even want to get paid, that’s the level of commitment they have to do this.”
She said the Desborough Suite is ‘brilliant in the way its run’ with seven stations continuously running and they are now ‘speeding up the process even more’.
When the centre first opened before Christmas around seven minutes were spent per patient but now they are down to five minutes. Dr Swamy added that when they provide flu jabs they are able to vaccinate one patient every two minutes.
She said: “The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is not easy. There is a lot of paperwork involved because the timing has to be right. We cannot waste any and it has to be prepared correctly and a lot of focus is required.
“One thing we have done which I’m proud of, we haven’t wasted a dose. We’ve frantically been ringing people if patients didn’t turn up and getting extra staff done.
“So many people are coming forward to volunteer and I’ve been amazed by the response.”
The teams are now planning to vaccinate housebound residents in the borough, which has to be done with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine as it is easier to transport.
After that they will begin to plan return trips to the care homes to give the second dose – following national policy which is to give it around 12 weeks after the first.
Dr Swamy, who lives in Cox Green, said she was concerned over the amount of cars on the road on Saturday and urged people to stay at home.
She said: “There is the vaccine there and we just need a little bit more patience required.
“My husband is housebound, stuck at home all day, my son has not gone to uni, my daughter is at home, I’m the only person leaving the house and they all look at me in envy so I imagine in houses it’s very tough but I don’t think this is the time to loosen up.”
Update: January 14: Dr Swamy has confirmed vaccinations for the first dose has taken place in all care homes for the elderly. Care homes which look after residents with learning difficulties will be considered next. We apologise for any confusion caused.
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