HSE report into Beacon vaccine controversy nears completion

Inquiry separate to that commissioned by Dublin private hospital’s own board

Former health service official Cornelia Stuart was appointed by the HSE to investigate the Beacon Hospital surplus vaccine distribution incident. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Former health service official Cornelia Stuart was appointed by the HSE to investigate the Beacon Hospital surplus vaccine distribution incident. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A Health Service Executive report into the controversy over the private Beacon Hospital in Dublin providing Covid-19 vaccinations to teachers at a school in Bray, Co Wicklow, is at an advanced stage, the health authority has said.

The HSE report, which was sought by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, is separate to the report commissioned by the board of Beacon, a summary of which was released on Monday.

Former health service official Cornelia Stuart, now an independent patient safety consultant, was appointed by the HSE to investigate the Beacon Hospital vaccine incident.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said in April that Ms Stuart would investigate how vaccinations were administered at the Beacon and the oversights involved in the process.

On Monday the report commissioned by the Beacon board and carried out by Eugene McCague, former chairman of legal firm Arthur Cox, found the decision to provide vaccines to teachers at a school in Co Wicklow in March was incorrect but was made in good faith.

Student supports

Meanwhile, third-level students will be given extra financial supports to return to campus in the next academic year under new Covid-19 plans to be approved by the Cabinet.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris is to seek Government approval on Wednesday for a €100 million financial package for further and higher education so that students can return on site in line with public health advice.

The funding will be split between different areas including mental health supports and assisting those who are financially disadvantaged.

Under the plans some €21 million will be used to give extra supports for students including an extra €3 million for student mental health programmes.

An additional €10 million will also be put aside for the student assistance fund, which provides financial supports to students experiencing financial difficulties while at college.

It is anticipated that the majority of third-level students will be back on college campuses in September.

This could see more than 200,000 third-level students in the State return.

All of the activities will be subject to public health guidelines in operation in relation to distancing, maximum numbers and social protocols.

Pilot programmes of rapid testing have been carried out at four universities to establish whether this would be suitable for students.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health reported a further 1,110 cases of Covid-19 in the State.

There were 21 people receiving treatment for Covid-19 in intensive care with a further 89 in hospital, according to the latest figures.

Almost 7,700 cases have been detected in the last seven days, an increase of 88 per cent on the previous week.

Incidence rates

The department said incidence rates had increased in every county over the past seven days.

The counties with the highest 14-day incidence rates were Donegal (725 per 100,000 population), Louth (474), Dublin (307), Limerick (258) and Galway (257).

People aged 18 and over can register for a Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine from Wednesday, Mr Donnelly confirmed.

Health leaders in Northern Ireland expressed concern on Tuesday that not enough people were taking up the opportunity to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

The North’s Minister for Health Robin Swann, chief scientific adviser Prof Ian Young and chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride issued their warning as the North’s department of health reported 1,138 new cases of Covid-19 with 118 patients being treated in hospital for the virus. The department reported one more death taking the North’s coronavirus death toll to 2,164.

Currently 82 per cent of adults have received a first jab of the vaccine in Northern Ireland, which compares with 88 per cent in England; 90 per cent in Scotland; and 91 per cent in Wales, up to July 18th. In the 18-29 age group, just 56 per cent had come forward for the vaccine.