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Varadkar says designating the Beacon Hospital as vaccination centre 'at odds' with its refusal to sign surge capacity deal

Beacon Hospital has not signed up to allow its ICU capacity be used by the public system.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said designating the Beacon Hospital in Dublin as a vaccination centre for healthcare workers is “at odds” with the hospital’s refusal to sign up to the deal that allows the HSE use bed capacity in private hospitals.

Speaking outside Government Buildings today, Varadkar said he did not know if there was a review clause in the Beacon-HSE contract, but said if there is perhaps it should be looked at.

However, he added that any agreement between the Beacon Hospital and the health service in relation to the vaccine centre would have been signed with the HSE, not government.

A deal was struck this month between the HSE and a number of private hospitals, other than the Beacon, to supply, depending on the incidence of the Covid-19, up to 30 per cent of their capacity. 

The arrangement will be in place for 12 months, during which safety net measures would be invoked in the event of Covid-19 surges.

Vaccinations commenced for healthcare workers from across Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow, including “a select number” of healthcare workers from the Beacon Hospital, at a newly set up mass vaccination centre, according to a Beacon Hospital spokesperson.

A press release issued yesterday indicated that a number of healthcare workers from the Beacon Hospital received their jab this week. 

“The prioritisation that the Government has agreed puts healthcare workers in three categories. Number one; those who are dealing with patients, particularly those dealing with Covid patients and number two; those dealing with samples for example, people working in labs and pathology and then in third those healthcare workers who are not dealing with patients, that is the Government policy and we believe that should be adhered to,” Varadkar said today.

The vaccination centre, located at the Beacon Hotel, which was recently purchased by Beacon Hospital, has vaccination stations and can provide minimum 100 vaccines per hour.

A spokesperson for the hospital told TheJournal.ie that the centre was set up to support the HSE, with the Beacon Hospital staff administering vaccines “free of charge”. 

They added that while some Beacon healthcare workers working with the vaccine team have been given the vaccine, over 1,000 HSE workers have also been vaccinated at the centre.

There is currently a vaccination team of up to 90 Beacon Hospital doctors and nurses administering vaccines Monday to Saturday, the hospital said this week.

Labour leader Alan Kelly hit out against the hospital this week, stating:

“At a time when our country is facing so many unknowns with this virus, it is absolutely shameful that the Beacon Hospital, one of the largest private hospitals in our capital city, chose to opt out of this process.”

Speaking about the issue this week, HSE boss Paul Reid said one hospital group were looking for a location for a mass vaccination centre, and it engaged directly with the Beacon Hospital. 

“It does appear to be a good facility,” he said, but added: 

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“It is, to be frank, at odds with the fact that we don’t have a an agreement currently with the Beacon Hospital,  signed agreements, in relation to the surge or safety net deal, and that is a concern of mine.”

A spokesperson for the Beacon Hospital said that engagement between the hospital and the HSE is ongoing. They added that the hospital does already provide capacity to the HSE under existing agreements, stating that 20% of surgical capacity is currently being used by public patients and 50% ICU capacity is being used to support public patients under current arrangements.

They indicated that capacity in the hospital for public patients “will increase over the coming days”. 

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