Mater Hospital chairman received vaccine at ‘very early stages’ of rollout

Former trade union leader David Begg says role requires him to go into Dublin hospital

Mater Hospital chairman David Begg said that his age and underlying health conditions put him in a very vulnerable category. Photograph: Frank Miller

Mater Hospital chairman David Begg said that his age and underlying health conditions put him in a very vulnerable category. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Mater Hospital chairman David Begg said he received a Covid-19 vaccine from the hospital in the “very early stages” of the vaccination rollout but that he “did not ask” for the jab.

The former trade union leader said that his work as chairman of the board and the “legal nature” of his role requires him to go into the Dublin hospital “very regularly”, several times a week.

Mr Begg said he received the jab “several weeks ago” at a time when there were “no specific guidelines in relation to hospital staff” during the start of the rollout of the programme.

“I didn’t ask for the vaccination. This was a judgment made by clinicians as to who should have it,” said the 71-year-old chairman.

Third priority group

The first vaccinations at the Mater took place at the start of January when frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff were only being vaccinated as priority groups.

The over-70s were added as the third priority group in the vaccination sequence in the second half of February, starting with the immunisation of people aged 85 and over.

A spokeswoman for the Mater said that all board members were offered a vaccine and that some accepted it as part of 10,000 vaccines administered by the hospital to staff and community healthcare workers.

“The Mater Hospital believed this was consistent with the intention to protect staff and patients under the HSE’s vaccine rollout guidelines,” she said.

The spokeswoman said that some board members are required to attend the Mater in person “as important issues arise which require board oversight”.

Mr Begg said that there were a large number of building contractors on the site who have been vaccinated in order, according to clinicians, to protect patients in the hospital from infection.

The former Irish Congress of Trade Unions secretary general said the high rate of Covid-19 infections at the Mater and the location of the national isolation unit for infectious diseases at the hospital made it a higher-risk place.

Vulnerable

Mr Begg, a former governor of the Irish Times Trust, said that his age and underlying health conditions put him in a very vulnerable category.

He declined to say whether any other non-medical board members had been vaccinated.

Two other board members – retired solicitor Rod Ensor, a former partner at Matheson, and Eilis O’Brien, director of communications at UCD – declined to say whether they had been received vaccinations from the Mater.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said he did not know if non-medical board members of the Mater were offered Covid-19 vaccines, but said it is something the HSE will be seeking details on.