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vaccine blow GPs banned from using halls and hotels to vaccinate over-70s     

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Dr Denis McCauley said there were various reasons for the ban. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Dr Denis McCauley said there were various reasons for the ban. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Dr Denis McCauley said there were various reasons for the ban. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

GPs have been banned from using community halls or hotels as vaccination centres for the over-70s, it was confirmed yesterday.

It has prompted concerns that lack of space in some surgeries will make it more difficult to have social distancing and lead to a slowdown in the pace of vaccinations as well as lack of parking for the elderly in winter weather.

It comes as the roll out of vaccines to people aged 85 years and older looks set to begin on Tuesday to around 100 practices where patients will be invited to get the first dose in their doctor’s surgery.

However, Dublin GP Dr Aidan Hampson of Whitethorn Rise, Artane in Dublin said he has now written to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to reconsider the ban on local community halls saying they “far outweigh small inadequate surgery premises.”

He pointed out without an suitable waiting area “one very rainy day or snow fall and essential vaccinations for that day would be cancelled.”

In his letter to Mr Donnelly he said he had secured the community insured hall in the Beaumont area adjoining the local church and his practice.

It has a large car park and ample space for four vaccinators with socially distanced space for 20 people who must stay behind for observation.

Dr Hampson’s practice manager Laura O’Brien who came up with the idea of the local hall said yesterday: ”It is a great building with one entrance and two exits. People volunteered their services including as car park attendants and it has male and female toilets.”

Dr Hampson said he has 1,200 patients over 70, 160 of whom are over 85. The greatest problem will arise when they are giving first and second doses.

“I am a simple GP who is in the coalface and I see the problems that are arising in the weeks to come. It should be tackled now.”

He is among several GPs who had arranged for their vaccinations to take place in facilities like hotels or community centres to allow for the extra space.

Under the current plan the vaccines can be given in the patient’s GP surgery, in another surgery premises or in a designated centre such as the Helix in Dublin.

Another GP Dr Stephen Murphy from Cabinteely in Dublin called for greater clarity on what to do if there are surplus doses of the vaccine.

The instruction is that it doses must be strictly for those aged 85 and over.

Dr Murphy said said doctors have a ticking clock of six hours in which to use vials of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and if one of their list of patients cannot attend they could be left two or three doses.

“I would be the first to criticise someone who vaccinated a person outside the age group. I am not advocating for that. But we need to act in a reasonable and pragmatic fashion.

“I have been vaccinating for 40 years and I don’t need another directive from the HSE to do it.”

He said if a doctor has run out of 85 and older people to vaccinate on a day they should be free to offer it to an 84 year old.

“If you try to make it black and white you will end up with a complete mess,” he added.

Other doctors said it has not been properly communicated that some 85 and older people will wait three weeks for their first dose.

In response, Dr Denis McCauley of the Irish Medical Organisation said the reason there is a ban on local halls is due to various reasons including indemnity.

“It does not work practically because of the various issues we have,” he said.

Dr McCauley added the delivery of vaccines would also have to be made directly to the community centre or hotel, and this could create security problems if they were at the centre or hotel overnight.

Asked about moving to people who are 84 years old if there are not enough 85 or over patients on a day he said this is possible, but the key is to maintain the ethical principle.

Rollout

It is possible as long as it does not displace an 85 year old or older, he added.

GPs will have a list of reserve people who can be contacted and are on call to make themselves available for the vaccine, he added.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that given that we are rolling out the vaccines, it does make sense that we knuckle down.

"As the vaccines are rolled out mortality will go down, severe illness will go down and as we vaccinate the more vulnerable and the more senior of our citizens, we will be in a good space in a relatively short space of time.”

Speaking in Cork the Taosieach said that the “ Government has put a lot of resources into vaccination...you can see it here in terms of the physical side of it, in terms of the various contracts we have signed with GPs and the vaccinators Resources are not an issue.”

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