Coveney urges Beacon Hospital board to ‘ensure accountability’

Childcare provider confirms 36 staff received vaccines as Minister calls controversy ‘slap in the face’

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly asked the HSE to suspend the programme of vaccination at Beacon  Hospital in Sandyford on Saturday. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly asked the HSE to suspend the programme of vaccination at Beacon Hospital in Sandyford on Saturday. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he expects the board of management of the Beacon Hospital to “ensure accountability” for the administering of excess Covid-19 vaccines to teachers in a private school.

He said this should be done to ensure the hospital group’s relationship with Government and the credibility of the vaccine rollout.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly asked the HSE to suspend the programme of vaccination at the hospital on Saturday.

Controversy erupted following revelations that 20 excess vaccines were administered to teachers at St Gerard’s School, near Bray, Co Wicklow.

The children of Beacon chief executive Michael Cullen attend the school.

Mr Cullen apologised on Friday, after details of the vaccination of the teachers were reported in the Irish Daily Mail.

He said the decision “was made under time pressure and with a view to ensuring that the vaccine did not go to waste”.

“I sincerely apologise for the upset that this decision has caused and we are updating our approach to our backup list to ensure that this situation does not arise again,” he said.

Mr Coveney said what happened “is such a slap in the face to so many people” who were so angry because “so many families have loved ones vulnerable to this virus, patiently waiting for a vaccine”.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s This Week programme he said: “I don’t think it’s a good precedent for senior Ministers to be on the radio, calling for someone to resign but I think the board has a responsibility now to ensure . . . to protect the reputation not only of Beacon Hospital, but more importantly the credibility of the vaccine rollout programme to ensure that that accountability is there in the decisions that they’re going to make” .

The south Dublin hospital had vaccinated more than 9,000 frontline healthcare workers to date, and was being run as a vaccination centre on behalf of the HSE at no extra cost.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly questioned whether contracts the hospital has with the National Treatment Purchase Fund should be suspended while the chief executive remains in place. Asked about this Mr Coveney said the issue was about the vaccine rollout “and ensuring that we get credibility and belief back”.

Mr Coveney said “we expect the board to ensure that there was full accountability in order to protect the Beacon group’s relationship with Government and also the credibility of the vaccine rollout programme”. He added: “What I’m saying is pretty clear in terms of what the board should be doing.”

Mr Coveney said that for the person responsible for rolling out vaccines to go beyond the protocols and “to essentially be giving vaccines to people who are not the next on the list in terms of vulnerability is simply not acceptable, and there are consequences to decisions like that”.

He said vaccination would move to the Aviva Stadium and Citywest where there is additional capacity.

Chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid said the Beacon Hospital’s actions were “a real body blow to the publicly funded and State-led vaccination programme, operating at around 1,000 locations including GP surgeries”. He said it had caused huge “anger and fury” among the public and within the HSE, when there were very clear guidelines and protocols around excess vaccines and back-up lists of recipients.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government had to intervene in the controversy over the Beacon Hospital’s use of vaccines “such was the level of public outrage”. She sharply criticised “the notion that there were somehow ‘spare’ vaccines at the Beacon clinic and that an individual could arbitrarily decide who was in receipt with utter disregard it seems for the guidelines and for the order of priority”.

The hospital said the spare doses arose as there were more than 200 “no-shows” during a vaccination clinic on Tuesday, as some HSE staff had been double booked to receive vaccines in the Aviva Stadium.

The hospital said it liaised with the HSE, and the majority of excess doses were provided to HSE staff redirected to the Beacon Hospital.

By Tuesday evening, 20 leftover vaccines had been drawn up and needed to be used within a very short period of time. At that point St Gerard’s School was contacted and a number of staff travelled to receive the remaining doses at the hospital.

Childcare staff

Meanwhile, Park Academy Childcare has said that 36 of its staff received Covid-19 vaccines at the hospital.

The Irish Times reported on Friday how childcare workers were vaccinated at the Beacon.

The HSE’s Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG) and the Beacon said they were given the vaccines to avoid waste and because they provide the “essential service” of childcare for frontline workers. Neither said how many childcare workers were vaccinated but, like teachers, the group are in the 11th cohort in the State plan for allocating vaccines.

However, the DMHG said that the vaccination of the childcare workers at the Beacon was in line with the national guidance on the prioritisation of vaccines for frontline healthcare workers.

The Irish Mail on Sunday named Park Academy Childcare as the providers involved.

The Beacon Hospital declined to offer a further comment on the matter when contacted on Sunday.

A statement from Park Academy Childcare said: “Given the proximity of our creches to the local vaccination centre, our staff were contacted twice at short notice to be informed of available appointments due to the failure of people to attend to take their vaccines.

“We were notified on 25th February to be at the vaccination centre and were given an hour’s notice, as otherwise the vaccine would expire.

“This resulted in nine staff being vaccinated.

“In early March we again were contacted by the vaccination centre at short notice, resulting in 27 staff who were vaccinated, in line with best practice.

“This included those managers and staff who work between various bubbles being vaccinated to avoid cross infection.”

A spokeswoman said the company had “no further comment to make”.

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