PEOPLE can expect to be "in and out" of the Belmont mass vaccination centre within an hour when it opens mid-July.
Hunter New England Health chief Michael DiRienzo said work was underway to transform the old Belmont Bunnings site into the state's second mass vaccination hub.
"And the quickest way to do it is to have this sort of set up, where we can have up to 20,000 a week vaccinated."
Mr DiRienzo said they had leased the Belmont site for 12 months, with an option to extend that up to two years if required. But over the next four-to-six weeks, they had a "massive task" ahead to convert the warehouse into a fit-for-purpose facility, put systems in place, and recruit enough staff to run it efficiently, six days a week.
"We have got this big empty shell with concrete floors, and lighting hanging from a very high ceiling," he said. "We are essentially going to be building a facility - with internal walls and roofs and different areas - within that footprint and shell. In regards to the way people will flow through the centre, it will be similar to what we're doing at John Hunter already, with the different sections, just on a much larger scale."
They had begun recruiting nurses, pharmacists and pharmacist technicians, as well as other support staff, to fill hundreds of roles.
"We put out an expression of interest to retired registered nurses who have been eager to come back and retrain to help, and also medical students, nursing students and other allied health staff," Mr DiRienzo said.
"We're fairly confident that by the time we open, we'll have the staff we need."
They expect the hub will draw people from Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, as well as the northern parts of the Central Coast, and the Hunter. They would be required to book in online.
The site required additional toilets and bathroom facilities, new mains connections, sewerage systems, and generators, for a start.
"It's a massive amount of work within this next four-to-six weeks," Mr DiRienzo said.
"It will be modelled very much on the Homebush hub. We're not reinventing the wheel. That site has been very, very successful. We'll be adopting the same quality standards."
An official start date for the hub is yet to be determined.
"We don't have an exact opening date, we're still saying mid-July, but we should be able to get back to the public shortly," he said. "We'd like to open up the booking system one or two weeks earlier so we can start getting a feel for what sort of numbers there will be."
The Belmont Bunnings site was chosen for its size, it's ample car parking, and its already established capacity to handle a high volume of traffic. And yes, they were considering opportunities for charity-led sausage sizzles to make the vaccination process that little more pleasant.
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