Donnelly ‘not satisfied’ with response of Coombe board on vaccine controversy

Minister for Health says he does not share hospital’s view that there should be no more sanctions

Stephen Donnelly said that while the Coombe was an independent hospital, it was fully funded by the State. Photograph: Alan Betson

Stephen Donnelly said that while the Coombe was an independent hospital, it was fully funded by the State. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he is not happy with the response of the Board of the Coombe Hospital to the controversy over family members of staff being vaccinated.

“What happened was absolutely wrong,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Friday.

The board of the Dublin maternity hospital has said the vaccinations of 16 relatives of staff with doses left over on the night of January 8th – including two family members vaccinated by a doctor at home – were “mistakes” and should not have happened.

“I engaged with the board, they said they were going to provide a report, they did and while they accepted that what happened shouldn’t have happened they weren’t proposing any further sanctions. I don’t share that view,” Mr Donnelly said.

Mr Donnelly said that while the Coombe was an independent hospital, it was fully funded by the State. “I will be engaging further with the board and further with the HSE on that and it would not be appropriate for me to comment any further.

“But I’m not satisfied with the answer back from the Board at this time.

“I will be engaging in due course with the HSE and the Board.”

Earlier this week a hospital spokeswoman said the board took what happened with the vaccinations “extremely seriously and has started a process to address the implications”.

The controversy has led to internal tensions within the hospital. On Wednesday The Irish Times reported that the husband of a hospital consultant at the Coombe hospital has claimed that its board is trying to silence his wife over her criticism of the controversial Covid-19 vaccinations of relatives of staff.

Tom Fahey, a professor of general practice at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, wrote to Mr Donnelly complaining about the hospital’s treatment of his wife, Prof Deirdre Murphy, professor of obstetrics at Trinity College Dublin and a consultant at the Coombe, after she criticised the hospital’s response to the vaccinations of the family members.

Prof Murphy called for the master of the hospital, Prof Michael O’Connell, who had two family members vaccinated, to resign in an April 7th letter circulated to senior medics at the hospital. She has also written to the Minister and Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid.

The chair of the Coombe board, Mary Donovan, wrote to Prof Murphy on April 14th, telling her that the circulation of her concerns to a significant number of people was “entirely inappropriate”.

She accused her of causing the hospital reputational damage and that “as an employee” there were “avenues available” for her to raise concerns internally and that “these must be followed”.

Prof Murphy replied on April 20th telling Ms Donovan that the reputational damage had been caused by those who chose to vaccinate their family members on the night in question.