Long wait times for help with vaccination proof

Queue outside the Woy Woy Services Australia building on Wednesday, October 20

Waiting times at the Woy Woy Services Australia Centre in Blackwall Road (formerly known as the Centrelink/Medicare office) have soared over recent weeks as people have encountered difficulties accessing their COVID-19 vaccination certificates.

Empire Bay resident, Doug Hull, said he visited the Woy Woy Services Australia Centre last week to enquire about his vaccination certificate options, but left after seeing a long line-up.

Hull said he currently holds an A4 size vaccination sheet but was hoping to be able to receive a ‘credit card-sized’ certificate for ease.

“I went to the service centre and saw a big line-up on the ramp of approximately 10 to 15 people,” he said.

“They were mostly elderly ladies.

“I asked if they were they to get their vaccination certificates and they said yes.

“I was surprised there had been no chairs offered to the ladies waiting.”

Another local resident said he tried to contact Medicare via phone and experienced a two to three hour wait time.

He said he then tried to access his vaccination certificate through the MyGov website which crashed, before visiting the service centre.

“I waited 45 minutes and was then told at the door that I couldn’t be served because they were overwhelmed with vaccination passport enquiries.

“The vaccine passport is a mess and Medicare is overwhelmed and Medicare payments are taking forever.”

Under the current health restrictions, fully vaccinated individuals must show proof of vaccination to enter a range of venues including non-essential shops, gyms, recreation centres and hospitality locations.

Proof of vaccination can be shown digitally through the Service NSW App, the Medicare App or on an iPhone’s digital wallet.

A paper copy can also be alternatively provided to the business.

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, said she had received similar reports from constituents with one man noting that he wouldn’t treat his dog the way he had been treated by staff at Services Australia.

“It is understandable that older members of our community are clearly frustrated trying to get their certified proof in legitimate modes that are required by local businesses,” Tesch said.

“Proving the vaccination details is easy for those with access to technology and the skills required to link all the accounts etc.

“The NSW Government announced they would have an ‘easy-to-use’ app/process available, and disappointingly it is still very tricky to access for those who do not have the required technology.

“The queues outside the Woy Woy Services Australia have been long and out the door since the support from the Federal Government was withdrawn.

“It is very clear that more staff are required and the ‘pop-up’ facility at Ettalong is not keeping up with increased demand.”

Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said her office had not received any reports from locals over struggles to access their vaccination certificate through Services Australia.

“Services Australia has not been turning customers away at the Woy Woy Service Centre, which has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wicks said.

“Services Australia’s Ettalong Agent Service had been closed due to restrictions in place across Greater Sydney but reopened yesterday (October 18).

“Services Australia acknowledges not everyone can use, or has access to, online services and mobile devices, and they have a number of options in place to help those people.

“If people cannot get proof of vaccination online, their vaccination provider can print their immunisation history statement for them.

“Alternatively, they can call the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 and ask for a copy of their immunisation history statement to be sent to them.

“It can take up to 14 days to arrive in the post.

“If people on the Peninsula require their statement urgently and can’t wait for it to arrive in the post, they can get a printed copy of their statement at the Woy Woy Service Centre.

“Services Australia encourages people to access their statement online or by calling the Australian Immunisation Register before attending a service centre.”

Wicks said that due to COVID-19 public health orders, there are currently capacity limits which impact the number of staff and customers who can be physically in the service centres at any one time.

“This capacity limit may cause service delays for constituents,” Wicks said.

“For customers who have to visit a Services Australia office during the current pandemic, the staff are serving them quickly and efficiently while bound by health orders.”

Maisy Rae