THE cohealth Melbourne Town Hall Vaccination Centre opened on Wednesday, 1 September to vaccinate Melbourne’s disadvantaged.
The centre was closed 23 days later.
What was designed to assist a CBD community, including rough sleepers, people with English literacy limitations, refugees, and international students, was shut down on Thursday, 23 September after cohealth staff suffered harassment from members of the public involved in the increasingly violent protests in Melbourne.
Chief executive Nicole Bartholomeusz, said she was distressed about several recent incidents of cohealth workers being physically and verbally abused.
“[Staff] in the city on their way to work, [were] targeted because they were wearing their cohealth identification,” Ms Bartholomeusz said.
“Our staff, and all health workers, deserve to be safe at work.
“I am shocked at the treatment of people who deserve nothing but our utmost gratitude and praise for working throughout the pandemic to ensure everyone gets the support and healthcare they need.”
cohealth also closed its Central City homelessness service, and its street-based outreach services along with the Town Hall centre until Monday, 27 September.
“This means people experiencing homelessness can no longer access vital services and supports at Central City and at least 200 people per day will no longer be able to access the vaccine from the Melbourne Town Hall,” Ms Bartholomeusz said.
To avoid being targeted by protestors, cohealth staff will not wear their uniforms, lanyards and scrubs when working in the city.
“We give this instruction with the heaviest of hearts, as our staff are so proud to be part of an organisation that supports our most vulnerable citizens and are proud to be recognised as cohealth workers,” Ms Bartholomeusz said.
She urges the Victorian community to join in condemning all acts of aggravation and violence against health workers and asks for their most profound support and compassion.
In The Conversation Josh Roose, Senior Research Fellow at Deakin University, said the images in recent media of hi-vis clad protesters shouting anti-vaccination slogans came as no real surprise.
There was a deliberate effort amongst the protesters to represent themselves as tradies and workers with the encouragement of rally organisers.
“Far-right nationalists, anti-vaxxers, libertarians and conspiracy theorists have come together over COVID and capitalised on the anger and uncertainty simmering in some sections of the community,” Mr Roose said.
“These movements thrive on anxiety, anger, a sense of alienation, distrust in government and institutions.
“It’s no coincidence this is occurring most vigorously in Melbourne given what this city has been through with lockdowns.”