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Vaccine row Creche workers also given vaccines from Beacon Hospital as part of 'zero wastage policy'

Michael Cullen, chief executive of the hospital, is now facing calls to resign after it was revealed 20 teachers and staff from a private school in Bray, Co Wicklow were also inoculated this week.

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Chairman and CEO of Beacon Medical Group (BMG) Michael Cullen. Photo: Graham Hughes.

Chairman and CEO of Beacon Medical Group (BMG) Michael Cullen. Photo: Graham Hughes.

Chairman and CEO of Beacon Medical Group (BMG) Michael Cullen. Photo: Graham Hughes.

Crèche workers caring for the children of staff at the Beacon Hospital also received jabs from the private hospital earlier this month, it has emerged.

The Beacon Hospital said: "In keeping with the zero wastage policy, vaccines were administered to childcare providers located on the Beacon Medical Campus. These workers deliver an essential service to frontline healthcare workers."

Michael Cullen, chief executive of the hospital, is now facing calls to resign after it was revealed 20 teachers and staff from a private school in Bray, Co Wicklow were also inoculated this week.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly described his position as “entirely untenable”, while Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said “no private school should have received vaccines”.

St Gerard’s Catholic School refused to comment on the matter.

The Beacon Hospital did not respond to queries about whether board members have also been vaccinated, or if an investigation into how the vaccines were given to teachers and childcare providers will be carried out.

Childcare workers and teachers are in Cohort 11 of the Health Service Executive’s vaccine roll-out.

The families of patients receiving cancer treatment at the Beacon have also condemned the hospital’s actions, describing it as a “kick in the teeth” and “incredibly upsetting”.

Aoife Stokes’s 64-year-old mother, who is receiving cancer treatment at the Beacon, is in Cohort 4 and has yet to receive a vaccination date, despite this group currently being in the process of being vaccinated.

“I’m incredibly angry and so frustrated,” Ms Stokes said.

“How can a private hospital who looks after hundreds of patients in the vulnerable categories not have a stand-by list and end up giving vaccines to an external group of people.

“We’ve been able to get no answer about when my mam will be vaccinated. We’ve gone from our GP to the Beacon to the HSE, who told her to ring an out of hours GP. From an organisational point of view, it’s so frustrating and it’s a kick in the teeth”.

The HSE is investigating how the private hospital – which has apologised – vaccinated 20 staff from St Gerard’s private school, where it is understood Mr Cullen's children attend.

Giving vaccines to teachers in his children’s school ahead of vulnerable patients in the hospital is simply unjustifiable, Mr Kelly said.

“It’s beyond belief that the CEO thought this type of behaviour would be appropriate or acceptable and there is now a fundamental question over his judgement,” he said.

He said Beacon had made a belated decision to join the Covid fight a few months ago.

“This two-tier elitism is shocking, and unfortunately, has been enabled by the lack of a cohesive vaccine strategy from the Minister for Health,” Mr Kelly said.

He said it undermined the message that the vaccine is being rolled out in an equitable way.

The incident, highlighted by the Irish Daily Mail, follows a similar incident at the Coombe Hospital in January, when vaccines were given to the Master’s immediate family.

The CEO of the Beacon, Michael Cullen, said the situation arose because there were over 200 no-shows for a jab clinic. This happened because of double-booking with the Aviva stadium, and his facility was under time pressure to administer the doses.

The Beacon said it is now amending its processes to “broaden our stand-by list to ensure that if there are leftover vaccines on any occasion in the future that there are sufficient numbers of identified individuals in a position to reach the Centre within the tight time frame required”.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly described the situation as completely unacceptable. He told RTÉ: “What I’m instructing the HSE to do is to appoint a HSE lead over the situation at the Beacon.”

However, he also said that the main priority remains to vaccinate as many people as possible, and as such the vaccination programme will not be pulled from the hospital.

“It is an important part of the vaccination infrastructure for the Dublin area and the Beacon is doing it at their own cost,” he said.

“So, by stopping the vaccinations at the Beacon - while I understand it would send a very clear signal - ultimately we would be cutting off our nose to spite our face, because the priority right now has to be to vaccinate people as soon as the vaccines arrive in the country.”

HSE chief Paul Reid, speaking on RTÉ radio, said protocols are in place and expressed disappointment that they had not been followed.

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow, John Brady, said the incident between two private institutions, 13km apart, was without justification, and smacked of “the well-heeled looking after the well-heeled."

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