Beaumont Hospital redeploys 26 frontline staff over Covid-19 vaccine refusal

Frontline staff had been temporarily moved ‘for protective measures’, says spokesman

The vaccine refusal rate among staff at Beaumont Hospital stands at 4 per cent. File photograph: The Irish Times

The vaccine refusal rate among staff at Beaumont Hospital stands at 4 per cent. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has temporarily redeployed 26 frontline healthcare staff because they have declined to be vaccinated against Covid-19, new figures show.

A spokesman for the hospital said that all current frontline healthcare staff had been fully vaccinated and that “at present” 26 frontline staff had been moved “for protective measures.”

The HSE operates a policy of temporarily reassigning healthcare staff who are not vaccinated to areas “with lower exposure risk” for managing patient exposure to the virus.

Some countries have adopted vaccine mandates in key sectors such as healthcare that involve high contact with members of the public but the HSE has adopted a less intrusive approach following steps to encourage and support healthcare workers to take the jab.

The Sunday Times reported that 186 workers, including eight medical staff, 49 nursing staff and 57 administrators, at Beaumont have not been vaccinated, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act. A further 14 health and laboratory staff and 58 support and care workers have not been vaccinated.

The vaccine refusal rate among staff at the hospital stood at 4 per cent. Some staff have appeared anonymously in anti-vaccination videos that have targeted the hospital.

Labour TD Aodhán O Ríordáin, whose Dublin Bay North constituency is home to Beaumont, expressed concern that the number of staff refusing vaccines undermined the reputation of the hospital and would lead to people “second guessing” whether they should go there for treatment.

He said there should be an investigation as to why there is a high level of vaccine refusals among healthcare staff at the hospital and that vaccine mandates should not be ruled out.

“Something serious has happened here. I am wary of moving towards vaccine mandates. However, there does come a point where the balancing of the individual rights versus a collective right has to come into play and I don’t think anything should be off the table,” he said.

“These are conversations that none of us ever thought we would be having because we assume those in the health sector would be the first in line to get vaccinations and be willing to get vaccinated and will be the first people to advocate for vaccination. Obviously that’s not the case.”

A spokesman for the HSE said that there had been a “very high take-up of vaccinations” among healthcare staff but that it did not have complete data on workers who decline the vaccine as it was “an opt-in programme” and the system does not record staff who do not register.

Figures on redeployment were not collected at a national level but managed at a local level by the HSE’s community health organisations and hospital groups.

Healthcare workers accounted for almost 4 per cent of 43,587 Covid-19 cases reported in the four weeks to September 11th, Health Protection Surveillance Centre. Nine were hospitalised.

In the first wave of the pandemic last year, 32 per cent of Covid-19 cases were among healthcare workers.

Third doses

Meanwhile, organ transport recipients and cancer patients will be among the first people to receive third Covid-19 vaccine doses this week in the next phase of the vaccination programme.

The HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry said the first recipients would be identified through the hospitals and contacted this week, with jabs being administered in vaccination centres from the end of the week.

People aged 80 and over in the community and people aged 65 and over in nursing homes would start receiving their third doses the following week, he said.