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'This really touched a nerve with people': Minister for Health suspends vaccine operations at Beacon Hospital

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he’d be interested to know what alternatives were explored by the hospital.

The provision of vaccines by the Beacon Hospital to a school was entirely inappropriate and completely unacceptable, said the health minister.
The provision of vaccines by the Beacon Hospital to a school was entirely inappropriate and completely unacceptable, said the health minister.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Mar 27th 2021, 6:47 PM

VACCINE OPERATIONS AT the Beacon Hospital are to be suspended at the request of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has called for the hospital’s board to hold the CEO accountable.

In a statement this afternoon, Minister Donnelly said:

“Ireland’s vaccination programme is the most important public health programme in living memory. It is essential that the programme is run in accordance with the agreed prioritisation in order to maximise the benefit of the vaccination programme and the speed with which Ireland can emerge from COVID-19 measures.

“The provision of vaccines by the Beacon Hospital to a school was entirely inappropriate and completely unacceptable. I have considered this matter carefully and have worked with the HSE to assess the operational implications of suspending vaccine operations at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin.

“I have now asked the HSE to suspend vaccine operations at the Beacon Hospital with the exception of those people who have already been scheduled to get their vaccine at the centre.

“Alternative arrangements are being put in place by the HSE. In addition, I have asked the HSE to appoint a senior official to immediately examine what happened and make recommendations regarding any actions or changes required.”

The Beacon Hospital has been heavily criticised for giving jabs to teachers at a private school in Co Wicklow this week. 

The Irish Daily Mail reported yesterday that the children of the CEO of the Beacon Hospital attend the fee-paying school, St Gerard’s in Bray.

The private hospital is currently being used as a hub to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers.

In a statement yesterday the Beacon said 1,096 HSE staff were vaccinated at the hospital on Tuesday, but that there were over 200 no-shows to scheduled appointments as a result of people being double booked at another vaccination centre the Aviva Stadium.

The hospital said it had liaised with the HSE, and that the majority of excess vaccines were subsequently used for HSE staff who were redirected to the hospital that afternoon.

“However, late on Tuesday evening there were still 20 leftover vaccines drawn up that needed to be used within a very short period of time,” a spokesperson for the hospital said. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said this afternoon that the vaccines “belong to the Irish people”.

What happened was wrong and a breach of trust. Behaviour of this sort undermines confidence in the vaccination programme.
The CEO should be held accountable for his actions by the board of The Beacon Hospital.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the decision by the health minister and the HSE to suspend the contract was correct.

“This really touched a nerve with people, especially older people and the medically vulnerable who have been waiting to get their vaccine. A response was necessary.

“It was a clear breach of Government rules and simply should not have happened. I’d be interested to know what alternatives were really explored – were the vaccines offered to the Gardaí in Dundrum, what about special education teachers and SNAs in local schools, local disability services, patients in the hospital who might have been well enough to be vaccinated, for example,” he said.

Today, it has also been revealed that creche workers also received leftover vaccines from the hospital. 

No one should be skipping the vaccination queue, Ann Piggott, President of the Association of Secondary School Teachers said today.

Speaking on RTE’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Piggott said what happened was “wrong” and shouldn’t have happened, stating that the HSE has issues guidance about what should happen should vaccines be left over, and it didn’t appear to be followed in this case.

Piggot said today that the teachers union could consider setting down guidelines for teachers if they find themselves being offered left over vaccines 

She said the HSE protocol should have been followed, adding that she didn’t envisage this type of issue surfacing in the vaccination roll out.

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Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy, speaking on the same programme, said what happened at the Beacon Hospital was “completely unacceptable”. 

He said the Beacon should carry out an investigation and determine the right course of action in relation to the CEO and the decision he made. 

“There has to be accountability for something like this,” said Brophy, who added that there should be “some sort of sanction for it”. 

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