Haphazard vaccine rollout must be retargeted to frontline heath workers

Alan Kelly TD
14 January 2021
  • All capacity in private hospitals must be made available.
  • Government must put back in place March agreement to pay student nurses.
  • Rapid antigen testing must be rolled out now after EU approval.

Responding to very worrying reports from frontline health workers, acute hospitals and trade unions, Labour Party leader, Alan Kelly TD, has called on the Government to refocus it’s haphazard vaccine rollout.

In a week where Ireland had the highest number of daily cases in the world, it has become clear that the Government has not effectively allocated vaccines to frontline COVID healthcare workers.

Deputy Kelly said:
“The level of hospitalisation relating to COVID-19 is of grave concern to people across the country. ICU capacity is reaching breaking point, and so too are our frontline workers. Things are now more serious than they’ve ever been, and it now looks like the only light at the end of the tunnel, the vaccine, is not reaching acute COVID facing settings.

“We have heard stories this week where hospitals are running out of staff and those who are close contacts are being asked to come to work, putting further risk into the health care system. Our nurses and doctors in acute COVID settings continue to work through the worst crisis they will ever face, and now it looks like the Government will ask them to do this without being vaccinated, potentially having to wait another four weeks before they are.

“The situation is rapidly moving beyond control if action isn’t taken now, and will have real life consequences for workers and patients. There are clear and obvious mistakes being made by Government in addressing this crisis.

“Where is the data on the vaccination roll out? We are relying on a drip feed of information and I’ve heard concerning reports from multiple hospitals now.

“The Government appears to have no consistent plan. I am calling on the Government and the Minister for Health to take immediate action and develop a coherent strategy to protect our health service.

“The Minister for Health urgently needs to reprioritise the rollout of the vaccine to acute settings. Our frontline workers need protection. Staff in our hospitals are exhausted and worried about what lies ahead. Our acute hospitals are under pressure like never before. These medical staff must be the key priority for the vaccine, and the Government needs to answer us – will there be sufficient supply for this group?

“We then need to take over all capacity in private hospitals. The Minister for Health has again shown a lack of leadership on this matter. The hospitals are at breaking point. I am calling on the Minister to demand access to all beds that are available, particularly the ICU beds that are so desperately needed at this time. This is a national crisis. The Government needs to act.

“The Labour Party is once again calling on the Taoiseach and this Government to put in place a deal with our student nurses to actually pay them for the essential and life-saving work that they are undertaking. No amount of applause can mask the fact that these crucial workers are working for free in the midst of the greatest health care crisis of our lifetime. It’s wrong, and it needs to be resolved now.

“As we continue to see extraordinary levels of community transmission, the Government needs to explain to the public why are we not using rapid COVID-19 antigen tests, despite the fact that the EU has recommended it? These would allow us to quickly track down cases before the virus can spread further.

 

“I remain concerned about the mental health of the nation, particularly younger and older people, who thrive on social outlets. The days are shorter than when COVID first arrived on our shores, the weather is grim and the resilience of our citizens is being tested. The Government needs to show leadership, we need to have confidence that those who need it most will receive the vaccine. We need to know that if a loved needs critical care, a bed will be available. We need to pay our student nurses who have carried so much of the burden stoically throughout this crisis. We need action, we need leadership and the Government needs to step up now.”

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