MERYL Swanson has questioned why the Hunter was not included in the first week of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout given the region's high percentage of aged care facilities and aging population.
The Federal Member for Paterson put the question to new chief medical officer Paul Kelly and Department of Health secretary Professor Brendan Murphy at a COVID-19 vaccination program briefing in Canberra on Tuesday.
"I was saying, when I look at this list for week one, I see there is no John Hunter hospital, at least. There is really nothing between the Central Coast and Port Macquarie," Ms Swanson said.
"We know the John Hunter draws people from the Queensland border. But more to the point, if it's about need and aged care facilities, my electorate would have to be up there given it has one of the highest per capita populations of people over 55."
Ms Swanson said a lot of people chose to retire and see out their latter years in "The Bay", and many of them did so in aged care facilities.
"So I was really aghast to see that at least a major tertiary hospital like the John wasn't a hub, and also that they weren't rolling out to aged care facilities in Port Stephens," she said.
"I was shocked.
"The Central coast, which has four, has an aged population as well, and that's fair enough, but they also have some pretty marginal seats down there."
Ms Swanson said Professor Murphy was "at pains" to say there was no political influence on the rollout decisions, and that logistics experts had come up with the strategy.
"But I still can't work out how Newcastle has missed out with it also being the most populous area in the state," she said.
"When I asked that question Professor Murphy said there was zero community transmission and that this was more about logistics than critical need. That it was better to do it in a logistically sensible way.
"I can see where he is coming from, but again, I can't see how the Hunter has missed out altogether.
"He did say this is only week one. But still, why aren't we there?"
Ms Swanson said the Hunter region was "just as deserving".
"I know every region wants to be in week one, I get all of that, but if you're going to talk about sheer numbers, and the demographic spread of our region, we absolutely should have qualified for week one, in my opinion," she said.
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