Wednesday, December 15, 2021

By James Fogarty

A total of 97% of staff at the Saolta University Health Care Group have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the HSE has said. Booster vaccinations are currently being administered in the community to healthcare workers and people aged 60 plus.

Head of the Saolta hospital group, Tony Canavan told a meeting of the HSE Health Forum that it was important that the public know the “vast, vast majority” of people working in the hospitals were vaccinated.

He said that he understood people’s concerns regarding healthcare staff being vaccinated, but that some people in the healthcare environment “had exercised their entitlement to choose not to get vaccinated”.

Breda Crehan-Roche, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare West, said that vaccination was not mandatory and people’s choices had to be respected.

Responding to councillors’ questions, the HSE said that there had been a significant demand to receive the Covid-19 vaccine and a very high take-up of vaccination by healthcare staff.

“There is a policy in place to address situations where unvaccinated staff are in critical roles, which is managed at local healthcare site level, and we know this is a relatively small number in the context of the total healthcare workforce,” Mr Canavan said in a written response.

“Participation in vaccination programmes in Ireland is not mandatory. Should a person change their mind, vaccination can be made available to them.

“We continue to vaccinate new healthcare staff,” he said, adding that Saolta had processes in place to ensure new healthcare workers are vaccinated. One of the processes included a risk assessment for the member of staff.

The Saolta chief added that a healthcare worker’s vaccination status was “a matter between the line manager and the individual staff member when the risk assessment is being conducted”.

Cllr Donagh Killilea from Tuam said he would be very disappointed “if a healthcare worker who was dealing with patients face to face did not have a vaccination”.

“If someone can’t go to the cinema because they don’t have a vaccination then my God they shouldn’t be working one on one with patients,” the Fianna Fáil councillor said.

He stressed though that he realised and accepted that some workers had underlying issues which prevented vaccination.

Ballinasloe based councillor Dr Evelyn Francis Parsons also asked a question about this issue, saying she had been asked by members of the public.

Responding to the councillors, Mr Canavan emphasised that vaccination worked and “we can see the evidence of that in our hospitals today”.

“This fourth wave is showing numbers are a lot lower than in the third wave,” he said. He said that people who were not vaccinated were disproportionately represented in ICUs.


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