[Editor’s note: This Opinion article from Pat Hughes follows on from her comment on last week’s lead story “Vaccinations – more choice” which then attracted more comments, and she also responds to the most recent comments]
On January 18, just before Etchingham went live as the (mass) vaccination centre for the rural Rother area, an enquiry was made of me in respect of my having announced that RDCT was ready to take people there. I was asked whether I was suggesting that we had the capability to lift hundreds of people over the coming weeks, perhaps in bad weather, and whether we had ascertained that people would be happy to go with us.
Well, at the end of the first phase – as the last groups went for their first vaccination on Wednesday and the rest of this week will be a mopping up process, eg for the housebound. [Editor’s note. And the NHS will decide whether they bring the housebound to the centre, or take the vaccinations to the housebound – and practice has varied from place to place] – I am delighted to have been completely vindicated.
In the 22 days of this first phase RDCT has taken 256 people for vaccination in 63 trips (an average of four people per trip), coped with some pretty adverse weather conditions, relentless rain and strong winds predominantly, and given people a really good time out.
Yes, it was a scramble at the start, and all the parts of the operation had to get to fit together, but communications and ways of working were established, glitches were overcome, and neither snow or Sunday affected the ability to deliver. And I think that everyone who has been to Etchingham, whether under their own steam or with us, has been hugely impressed with what has been done there. The collaboration has been key to it.
Could Rye have done better?
A vaccination centre for Rye on its own could not have been anything like as efficient an operation and achieving that with the top four at risk groups done by Monday February 15 would probably not have been possible. I have seen a complaint about the cost of the transport to Etchingham, but if you choose not to go with RDCT (in which case there would have been no charge) the cost of the journey was entirely of your own making.
RDCT is not charging the NHS for this transport, and we have been delighted with the support from the community with donations received from individuals, organisations and companies. As far as I and RDCT are concerned, we must do everything in our power to achieve the vaccination of our community. At the start of this I told our driving team that in our 27th year of operations this was both the biggest and the most important transport job we had ever undertaken, and that we would get it done. And so on to the next phase…
I would like to comment on suggestions that either the New Romney vaccination centre or Laycock’s in Ore can be easily reached by bus. I think that if you believe that, you may not have travelled on the 102 service for some time as, for most of the day, it does not go along New Romney High Street, but comes from Littlestone up Station Road before turning back onto the A259 towards Hythe.
The journey from Rye to the station at New Romney therefore takes about 50 minutes, and then there is probably a 5-10 minute walk to the vaccination centre – and going on the 100/101 to Ore takes 30-35 minutes depending on which bus you are on.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .