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Beacon hospital outrage: ‘A privileged group with the right connections jumps the queue’


by Amanda Cassidy
29th Mar 2021

One of the most expensive hospitals in the country vaccinating teachers in one of the most expensive schools in the country. Did nobody think to stop and say no, wonders Amanda Cassidy.

“My mother is category 4, a patient in the Beacon hospital undergoing treatment for cancer. She could have been up there in ten minutes to receive a vaccine. Now they are telling us they have no information on when they’ll have a vaccine for her.”

Aoife Stokes is understandably angry. She is just one of the thousands who have very vulnerable family members stretched thin waiting for the life-saving vaccine.

Bad form

The stories emerging over the weekend of those who should have been prioritised make heartbreaking reading. But it was a kick to the teeth for all those watching and waiting when CEO of the private Beacon hospital in South Dublin made the decision to offer “leftover” vaccines to teachers at St Gerard’s school in Bray where his children attend and to creche workers who look after the children of Beacon staff members.

St Gerards is a fee-paying school 13km from the hospital.

The statement issued by CEO Michael Cullen acknowledged the hospital’s actions were “not in line with the sequencing guidelines in place from the HSE”. It said the decision was made based on a zero wastage policy made “under time pressure.”

It is pretty clear that they made the wrong call. One would think that making the right decisions based on time pressure should ultimately be a hospital’s forte.

Under HSE guidelines, hospitals have to have a standby list constructed using the sequencing document should any additional doses become available on a particular day.

Frustrating

But the apology issued by the CEO has been widely dismissed as glib. Why that particular school was selected for vaccination by the Beacon hasn’t been addressed either.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, HSE Chief Paul Reid described it as “extremely annoying” and “extremely frustrating for the public.”

The story, broken by Craig Hughes for the Irish Daily Mail, is for many the straw that broke the camels back when it comes to how the pandemic has highlighted the division in society and how the crisis has been mismanaged.

This afternoon, the Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald described the situation as a “disgraceful shambles.”

“A privileged group with the right connections jumps the queue and gets vaccinated. While very sick people, families, carers and older people all wait.” But she’s placing the blame at the feet of the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, who is already under pressure to steer the country out of the curren Level 5 restrictions.

It is cronyism – it is an abuse of position, it is nod-nod-wink-wink at the expense of the countries most vulnerable. 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee also described the incident as frustrating. “The vaccination sequencing system was there for a reason. When people “start moving outside of that, people lose faith in the system itself. I’m frustrated to hear it’s happening still.”

Now isn’t the time to play favourites

But this isn’t just bad form. This is the culture of entitlement we see far too often in this country. It is cronyism – it is an abuse of position, it is nod-nod-wink-wink at the expense of the country’s most vulnerable.

Ethics

But it also feeds into the elite narrative. It calls into question the ethos of St Gerard’s school in Bray that 20 of its staff and teachers accepted the vaccination.

There were much “better candidates” for any spare doses of the vaccine.  Surely it is obvious that now isn’t the time to play favourites?

This scandal has further eroded the confidence in the vaccine rollout at a time when everyone is particularly desperate to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

The action of the Beacon hospital is akin to driving a train down through the centre of that tunnel, right past those who really needed it most.