THE Limerick Northside Family Resource Centre has stood over the vaccination of the organisation’s staff following a report in a Sunday newspaper that employees were told to misrepresent themselves as frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated.
The centre’s CEO, Ciara Kane, provided a statement from the Northside FRC board of management, which read: “We stand over the registration and categorisation process as we received guidance from our statutory partners”.
The board said it was aware of “queries over the vaccination of our employees” and added: “To avoid misunderstandings Northside FRC is funded by multiple sources including Tusla and HSE to provide essential frontline services. On 11/2/2021 the HSE and subsequently Tusla contacted Northside FRC directly to initiate the registration of employees for vaccination.”
The article in the Irish Mail on Sunday reported that almost 70 employees, including cleaners, kitchen staff, creche workers, and administration staff who were working from home — who were vaccinated — were instructed in a letter from Ms Kane to misrepresent themselves as frontline healthcare workers.
Staff were also reportedly told not to speak of their vaccinations publicly for fear of the organisation receiving a backlash.
The article quotes staff who said they were in fact not interacting with the public, and felt guilty they had been prioritised over others.
Northside FRC is funded by a number of state agencies including Tusla; the HSE; POBAL; the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
The Northside FRC board replied: “Staff were prioritised because of their exposure to the uncontrolled pandemic environment and direct contact with vulnerable persons”.
Tusla told this reporter: “We are aware of issues raised in relation to the vaccination of some staff at the Northside Family Resource Centre, which would appear to be contrary to the guidance on vaccinations issued by Tusla.”
Tusla said that, after acting on “HSE issued guidance”, it “subsequently issued communication (including the HSE Guidance) to all Section 56 funded agencies, to inform them of the HSE guidelines for the prioritisation and registration of ‘frontline public facing essential workers’ on the HSE Vaccination Portal.”
Tusla, which provides 25% funding to the organisation, said it communicated the HSE guidance on “the sequencing and registration process for Health Care Workers COVID Vaccination, which encompassed essential frontline staff” to Northside FRC on the “5th, 11th & 15th February, which clearly outlined the categories of staff that were to register in line with HSE Categorisation 2a-2g”.
“Tusla was absolutely clear in all of our communications with the Northside Family Resource Centre that only frontline staff in categories 2 a- 2g should register for the vaccine at this time.”
“We have been assured by the CEO of the Family Resource Centre that no Tusla correspondence, or, advice was issued to them that was contrary to this.”
The Department, HSE, POBAL, have also been contacted for comment.