Coombe hospital did not vaccinate students on standby, inquiry hears

Almost 40 students were on standby to receive vaccines on the night they were given to 16 family members of staff
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Medical students in the Coombe hospital’s labour ward were passed over for Covid-19 vaccines on the night they were given to 16 family members of staff, the investigation into the incident has been told.

Two days after two of his own children were vaccinated, the master, Prof Michael O’Connell, told a senior colleague the hospital was “not in a position” to vaccinate the students, according to The Irish Times.

Almost 40 students were on standby to receive vaccines, and hospital management were made aware of this an hour before vaccines were given to the 16 relatives, Prof Deirdre Murphy, head of the department of obstetrics at Trinity College Dublin, has told the review.

The details are contained in a letter to Brian Kennedy SC, the lawyer carrying out a review of the episode for the board of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital.


Prof Murphy describes arguments put forward by Prof O’Connell as “untenable” and says she is “personally embarrassed” by his behaviour.

Prof O’Connell apologised in January when The Irish Times revealed the hospital gave vaccines to the family members of staff. He said he had made “every effort to prioritise and identify additional frontline workers” for the vaccines on the evening of the incident, January 8th.

Prior knowledge

In her letter, Prof Murphy said the hospital’s senior executive team knew the medical students were on standby to receive vaccines. The Health Service Executive had advised that the students be vaccinated alongside other health staff during their hospital placements.

At the time, the 39 students were on placement in obstetrics, with some working overnight on the labour ward.

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Contacted by The Irish Times, Prof Murphy said the issue was of public importance. “I have received legal warnings about confidentiality in relation to this matter, and in particular about engaging with the media . . . and am therefore unable to assist you at this time.”

A spokeswoman for the Coombe said that it would not be commenting while Mr Kennedy was carrying out his review.

The hospital expects him to complete his work within a number of weeks.

It is understood Mr Kennedy has already interviewed a number of people at the hospital as part of his review.

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