Covid-19: Tracking who has been vaccinated can require ‘four phone calls’

Absence of unique patient electronic ID record highlighted at IMO conference told

A file image of medical staff treating a Covid-19 patient. The IMO said the pandemic had brought the fragile nature of the health service into sharp focus. Photograph: Alan Betson

A file image of medical staff treating a Covid-19 patient. The IMO said the pandemic had brought the fragile nature of the health service into sharp focus. Photograph: Alan Betson


One part of the health system cannot tell another part of the health system whether a particular patient has received the Covid-19 vaccine, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has claimed.

Susan Clyne, chief executive of the organisation, which represents doctors in Ireland, said information technology systems needed to talk to each other and to link up.

She said GPs did not know if a patient had been vaccinated in a hospital while one hospital did not know if a patient had received the vaccine in another centre.

She said an integrated system was planned “but it is not there yet”.

Ms Clyne pointed to the absence of a unique patient electronic identification record.

Speaking at the organisation’s annual conference she said: “A simple issue now is one part of the health system cannot tell another part whether a person has been vaccinated or not.

“That could result in four phone calls. What a waste of time.”

Ms Clyne said on-going investment was needed in e-health systems.

Earlier, incoming IMO president Dr Ina Kelly said the biggest crisis in the health system at the moment was the crisis in morale among key workers.

In an address to the organisation’s annual conference on Saturday, she said not all the challenges facing the health service were financial.

She pointed to “the low morale of young consultants facing impossible demands on their time and knowing that they are earning over 30 per cent less than their colleagues because the Government thinks it is okay to have a two tier salary system, the low morale of GPs who are under immense pressure all the time, the low morale of our non-consultant hospital doctors who are queuing up to apply for opportunities to work abroad rather than stay here and face systematic neglect and inexcusable working hours, and the low morale of foreign doctors working here in Ireland who have no clear path to enable them to make the most of their careers, or to serve this country as well as they can”.

She also highlighted “the low morale of our public health doctors through 2020 who have had to juggle attention over the past year between fighting the pandemic on the one hand and fighting for the recognition of their value to the health services on the other”.

“We are so glad that the Government has now seen the benefit to the country and the health service of a comprehensive, safe, effective, sustainable and consultant -led and provided public health medicine service.”

ICU capacity

Dr Kelly said one of the lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic was the need “to invest in fully functioning services, all the time - not just at a time of crisis - so that we are never again exposed in the way we have been this year”.

“That doesn’t just mean increasing our ability to respond to infrequent, though predicted, events like a pandemic. It means increasing resources across the board so that service readiness - like our intensive care unit capacity - doesn’t have to become a routine topic of conversation and worry in homes around the country.”

It means enough beds in our hospitals “so we don’t have to worry about elderly patients lying on trolleys in hospital corridors” but also enough consultants, GPs and community health doctors.

The IMO said that a survey of over 1,000 doctors carried out in recent months on their wellbeing and mental health found that 90 per cent reported having experienced some form of depression, anxiety, stress, emotional stress or other mental health condition related to or made worse by work.

The IMO also said that 79 per cent of doctors reported that their mental health had been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Separately the IMO’s out-going president told the conference that Irish hospitals came uncomfortably close to being overwhelmed during the pandemic as the impact of years of under-funding was laid bare.

Dr Padraig McGarry said from the onset of Covid-19 the fragile nature of the health service came into sharp focus.

He said the problem of capacity in the hospital sector had been a long-running saga “and the inherent dangers therein (were) realised as hospitals struggled to maintain a service and not be overwhelmed”.

Dr McGarry said the two-tier pay system for hospital consultants - which saw those recruited after autumn 2012 paid 30 per cent less than their more longer-serving colleagues - “continues to wreak havoc to this very day”.

He said “the damage this has brought to the health service is incalculable and must rank as one of the poorest decisions ever made in the health service”.