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Shutterstock/Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz
Stephen Donnelly

Ambulance capacity to double as part of 'dedicated system' to vaccinate people who are housebound

Stephen Donnelly said that the National Ambulance Service capacity would be doubled as part of this.

THE MINISTER FOR Health Stephen Donnelly has announced that a “dedicated system” to vaccinated people who are housebound, after criticisms were made of the delays to administer a vaccine to those who are unable to leave their homes.

Criticisms raised with the minister in the Dáil yesterday, and further criticism was made today from former communications minister and independent TD Denis Naughten, who said that it showed that “clearly this system is failing, and older people stuck at home for the last 12 months are being denied access to visitors because of this debacle”.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) is involved in the administration of Covid-19 vaccines to people who are housebound, and is currently operating a seven-day service to facilitate around 400 appointments per week, or 50-60 a day.

NAS visits to those who are housebound take more than 30-40 minutes at each home, with around 10% of visits taking up to 50 minutes due to the medical histories of some people, which mean ambulance staff need a 30-minute observation period, rather than a 15-minute one.

Due to the way people who need to be vaccinated are spread across the country it can also take ambulance staff “a considerable amount of time” per visit to reach these people.

Following on from the criticism received, Minister Donnelly said that a “dedicated system” would now be put in place, where the HSE will make direct contact with them and administer the vaccine to the person who is housebound within three weeks.

Donnelly said that the National Ambulance Service capacity would also double from next week “in order to accelerate the delivery of vaccines”. 

The completion of the first doses as part of this programme is expected in May 2021, while second dose is expected to conclude in June 2021, the Minister said.

“There are currently a significant number of people who are fully triaged and awaiting their first dose vaccination. This figure has grown following a number of later referrals. So far, as part of this programme, the HSE has have offered over 1,800 appointments to people referred by their General Practitioner.”

Junior Minister in the Department of Health Mary Butler told the Dáil yesterday that these 1,800 appointments are from 3,500 referrals. 

“I have spoken to the HSE and a dedicated system is now being put in place to ensure all those awaiting a vaccination at home will be contacted in the coming days.

“I want to thank the national ambulance service for their work on this part of the programme in the past number of weeks.”

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