‘I felt sick’: Frontline workers disheartened over Covid-19 vaccine distribution

ireland
A frontline worker has said she felt 'sick' when she learned that vaccines were given to relatives of staff. Photo: Getty Images.
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By Vivienne Clarke

A frontline worker has said she felt “sick” when she learned that Covid-19 vaccines were given to the relatives of hospital staff rather than those treating patients.

Louise Morgan-Walsh, a clinical nurse manager at Nenagh Hospital, told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne programme that staff in the hospital felt “despair” last week as their planned vaccinations failed to take place.

Reacting to the news that leftover vaccine doses were given to relatives of staff members at the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin earlier in January, Ms Morgan-Walsh said she did not understand how it happened.

“I actually felt sick, to think that we had to go online, we had to do our own video and beg for vaccines because on Friday morning we had zero vaccines,” Ms Morgan-Walsh said.

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On Friday, Ms Morgan-Walsh and her colleagues had posted a video to Facebook in which they pleaded with Government ministers to release vaccines to the hospital’s staff.

I felt sick to think that there were 16 vaccinations left over that could have been given to 16 frontline workers

“We're not the only frontline workers in hospitals that had zero vaccines. I felt sick to think that there were 16 vaccinations left over that could have been given to 16 frontline workers. There doesn't seem to be any accountability in this,” she added.

“Could frontline workers from other hospitals not been contacted? I just don't understand how they had 16, did people not turn up? Was it that the allocation numbers weren't done correctly? Frontline workers should be a priority here.”

The master of the Coombe maternity hospital, Professor Michael O’Connell, has said he “deeply” regrets that relatives were administered the vaccine and that it was done to ensure that doses that had already been “made up” did not go to waste.

Despair

Ms Morgan-Walsh said staff at Nenagh Hospital had been due to receive vaccines last Monday, before they received confirmation that there were no doses available for them.

“We didn't get any clarity on when our vaccine roll-out would start and everybody was in despair, because we have colleagues who are going down with Covid-19 at the moment and are very ill at home,” she said.

“We have battled Covid-19 on the wards for 10 months now and that was the light at the end of the tunnel for us and all of a sudden it was gone.”

The nurse manager said she had made the video regarding vaccines with her colleagues as they “just wanted our voices heard.”

“I don't think people realise what staff are going through at the moment - it's not only in hospitals, it's across the country,” she said.

“We've seen relatives coming to the window looking for a peek at loved ones.

“This isn't nursing as we know it. It's very hard for families,” she added.

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“The rate at which I'm seeing colleagues go down with Covid-19 is very scary.

“We're at breaking point. I beg people to abide by the public health guidelines.”

It comes as the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 in the Republic passed 2,000 on Monday for the first time since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has warned that current levels of movement are too high and will lead to Covid-19 restrictions remaining in place for months to come.

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