A group of doctors and nurses at Nenagh Hospital have called on the government to sanction the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for the hospital’s frontline staff who have been treating COVID-19 patents since last March.
Staff at the Co Tipperary hospital said they were “infuriated” they had not yet received the vaccine, but that their colleagues within the UL Hospitals Group, at University Hospital Limerick; Ennis Hospital; and University Limerick Maternity Hospital have.
Up to 2,500 staff across the mid west hospital group have received a first phase dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, however staff at Nenagh Hospital; St Johns Hospital, Limerick; and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, have not been told when they will be vaccinated.
This morning before the start of her shift “nursing Covid patients”, Nenagh Hospital Clinical Nurse Manager, Louise Morgan Walsh, along with several colleagues, appeared in a video pleading with the government to release vaccines for staff at the hospital.
The unprecedented recording by HSE staff was posted on Ms Morgan Walsh’s Facebook account this morning.
Speaking afterwards Ms Morgan Walsh, who identified herself as being the first member of staff that appears in the video, said she was “exasperated” because staff had yet to be told when they would receive vaccines, let alone actually receive the potentially life-saving jab.
In the video message, addressing the Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Ms Morgan Walsh says she wants “to know why aren’t we being vaccinated, why are we being left out”.
“We are so angry, we are scared, we are afraid, we can see our co-workers going down with Covid and becoming very ill.”
“How come we in Nenagh Hospital are being left out, when we can see private hospitals being vaccinated where there are no covid patients, that’s a question I want to ask the minister (for health),” adds Ms Morgan Walsh.
Another female staff member, who appears in the video, says: “I’m very infuriated that we have not even got a date for a vaccine here in Nenagh hospital. Everybody has family members, whether it be elderly parents, elderly grandparents, children, and we are so infuriated that it’s being picked who is getting this vaccine.”
“Our co-workers are going down (with covid) at a rate that is just unbelievable, we are so scared, and we have no sight of a vaccine,” she adds.
A third female staff member says the situation is “urgent” at the hospital.
“We already currently understaffed, and if we do not get this vaccine we are outnumbered patient to staff ratio — this is urgent,” she says.
A male doctor also addresses the camera and says that “none of the staff here have been vaccinated so far and we have a lot of numbers of covid patients that we are dealing with everyday”.
“I request the government to take immediate steps to provide vaccines for us,” he goes on.
A second male doctor who says he has been deployed to the “Covid ward” at Nenagh, adds: “I’m being deployed with the Covid patients and I did not get my vaccine yet, the staff who are not frontline are getting it, why aren’t we?”
Another male staff member says: “We have been looking after Covid patients since March, and we should be the ones who receive the vaccine first, not the other staff working in the other sectors, it is really frustrating, and we are really under pressure, so I think we deserve to get vaccinated”.
UL Hospitals Group has been asked for comment, however, in response to a query from this reporter last Wednesday about vaccine roll out across the UL Hospitals Group, a spokesman said: “Ultimately, the vaccine will be rolled out across all hospitals in UL Hospitals Group. Currently, we are prioritising staff in Intensive Care and High Dependency Units, in our emergency care and COVID admission pathways, and on our COVID-positive wards, so that we can continue managing our emergency services.”
“We are currently issuing as much vaccine as possible, based on availability of vaccine and clinical prioritisation. All staff will be offered the vaccine regardless of employment status or grade. This includes temporary staff, agency staff and contractors and students on clinical placements.”
“We look forward to rolling out the vaccine programme to the other sites in UL Hospitals Group at Nenagh Hospital, St John’s Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, as soon as possible and as deliveries of the vaccine accelerate.”
There are 579 staff, including over 200 nurses and 50 medical team doctors, unavailable for work across the group due to COVID-19.