WE WERE given a ‘behind the scenes’ look at Hereford and Worcestershire’s first Covid-19 vaccination centre at Bromsgrove’s Artrix to find out how it will operate.
The site, operated by SW Healthcare, will open on Monday and will initially see frontline health and social care staff yet to receive the jab given priority before it moves onto the over 80s and over 70s.
The first letters inviting people for appointments at the centre will start hitting the doormats on Monday and Tuesday.
There will be 20 pods which will give 20 vaccinations every five minutes which, depending on supply, could be as many as 2,500-per-day at its peak.
The centre, open from 8am to 8pm seven-days-a-week, will be offering the Oxford-Astrazeneca jab and 8,000 doses have been secured which will begin next week at a rate of 1,700-per-day.
The vaccination centre will operate across Artrix’s three floors and there will be 149 staff on-site from vaccinators and other healthcare workers to marshals, administrators and the management team. There will also be a qualified GP there all the time to address any health issues.
We caught up with SW Healthcare operations manager Traci Walker who walked us through the path patients would take from the moment they arrive, through having the vaccination to the post-jab observation and aftercare (see video above).
So how does the process work?
When patients arrive with their letter and have booked their appointment they will turn up on that date and time. First they will be checked in and staff will make sure they are okay before they are taken to one of the vaccination areas.
If there are spaces at the first set of pods (in Artrix’s foyer), they will go there for the jab, if not they will continue to the next one which has been set up in the venue’s auditorium. The first floor and second floors would then be used in the same way if the ground floor pods are in use.
Each pod has a table where the vaccinator and an assistant will sit one side and the patient the other, ready to have the jab.
Also in the auditorium is an observation area – which is used more for the Pfizer jab than the Oxford-Astrazeneca – as patients need to be monitored for 15 minutes after having it to ensure everything is fine before they depart.
All sections of the centre will have marshals on them to help patients if they are unsure where they need to go or have any questions.
Transforming the arts centre
We asked Traci what she thought of the work that had been done to convert the site.
She said: “I was amazed when I saw it. The transformation from an arts centre to a hospital grade three-floor clinic was incredible.
“Everyone worked so hard at all hours of the day to get it ready to go.
“This was exactly how I thought it would be which is testament to that hard work.
Ombersley GP Dr Gemma Moore, who is the clinical lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “I’m really excited to get this up and running – it’s been three months in the making and we are delighted it’s on track to get large numbers of people vaccinated.”
She added the decision for Artrix to be used was a team decision – administrators on the programme looked for the most suitable venue and the centre was chosen because it had the capacity to get large numbers of patients through, plenty of car parking and good transport links.”
Claire Gould, SW Healthcare’s chief executive, said the capacity and the number of vaccines the centre could deliver was key to the success of the programme.
“With people who are over 80 or 70, we don’t want them queuing outside in the rain – we want a nice flow of people going through the process.
“The regional vaccination centre at Millennium Point was undertaking 1,000-per-day last week and can do 3,000-per-day which is not that many more than this one so it shows how important this will be.”
She added the staff at Millennium Point had been really helpful with tips and advice.
“It’s not just about the vaccinators and healthcare staff, those in non-clinical roles are also key to it working well, such as the administrators and marshals. We will be working as a team.”
And she added there will be two-way support between Artrix’s operation and the hub at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.
“If we are short of vaccinators and they have some, they will send them and vice versa.”
She also said the transformation from theatre to vaccination was incredible.
So how do people book?
When patients receive their letters inviting them to book a vaccination they can either log onto the national system online or call the phone number (details on the letter).
Previously Artrix would not have been available and Dr Moore said patients may have been offered other venues further afield, maybe in Birmingham or at the West Midlands regional vaccination centre at Millennium Point.
But she added if they go on from now when they receive their letter Artrix appointments should be on offer.
Dr Moore said: “It is important we get people vaccinated to reduce hospital pressure and start saving lives.”
‘Overwhelming’ public support
Dr Moore said it was great so many people had put themselves forward and wanted to help with the programme and she and her colleagues had been ‘overwhelmed’ by the response from people when the call went out for volunteers and vaccinators.
“We have already started training non-immunisers to become vaccinators and have 40 trained so far.
“The range of people has been amazing – from pilots and financial directors to registered healthcare staff in other professions, such as nurses and midwives, and stay-at-home mums.
“The number of people coming forward has been phenomenal.”