A Mayo GP says vaccine delays are causing considerable anxiety for her patients.
Crossmolina-based Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald was one of the first GPs in the county to start vaccinating the over-85 cohort but supply issues have halted progress.
The biggest problem we have had is securing a sufficient amount of the vaccine which we were appointed to give. We were ready to vaccinate the over 70s and well-organised with our clinics and then when the 75 to 85-year-old groups were to be done they hadn’t got the vaccine to give us.
“They reduced the amount to about a third or a fifth of what we needed. That caused consternation among the patients about who would be selected and who wouldn’t be. We had to go by high-risk categories plus the age of the patients. Instead of having them all done two weeks ago, the 75-80-year-olds, we have had to do them in instalments. We did another 30 yesterday (Thursday) and now we have to wait to get another consignment in two weeks time. It has caused major problems and we are very disappointed with the way it has been,” said Dr Fitzgerald.
Her practice was informed that their delivery of the Pfizer vaccine was delayed in order to make up the shortfall in other areas but yet other surgeries who received the vaccine after hers have now completed the vaccination of their 75-85-year old patients.
“We were told we were going to get the vaccine and then when it came to it they didn’t have it. We were told they were giving it to other GPs to bring up the numbers but yet there are GPs in Castlebar who got their total 75-85-year-old age group done yesterday (Thursday) and they only started a week or two after us. It’s very messy. There are too many chiefs involved and it is very hard to find anyone accountable to deal with when we do ring,” said Dr Fitzgerald.
The situation has heaped stress and anxiety on her patients and staff.
“They are ringing every day to see when they will be called. We understand their worries and frustration but it adds a lot of pressure to reception staff here when the phone doesn’t stop ringing,” said Dr Fitzgerald.
The changes made to the vaccine roll-out which will see 16 to 69-year-old in high-risk categories prioritised for the AstraZeneca vaccine will cause Dr Fitzgerald’s workload to ‘double’ before her practice gets the opportunity to vaccinate all of its patients aged over 70.
The new mass vaccination centre in Breaffy is expected to ease some of that burden on GPs but Dr Fitzgerald said she is aware of some people being double-booked for appointments at the centre while others never receive their appointment and have been contacting her surgery.
Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne stated that some of his constituents have contacted him over appointment mix-ups at Mayo’s mass vaccination centre.
“I have heard that they seem to be operating two or three different computer systems and they don’t talk to each other much like everything else in the HSE. And you might get called by one and get your vaccine done and then the other doesn’t know that you have been called and you get called again. That has happened in Mayo. It’s a pure disaster, the system doesn’t know what’s happening and it’s not good enough,” Cllr Kilcoyne stated.
Meanwhile, elderly people who are housebound and eligible to receive the vaccine remain in limbo.
“I have a woman that is confined to her house, she is in her nineties, and even though her GPs has her in the system since mid-February she still hasn’t got a word about her vaccine. It’s really bad. The HSE don’t know what they are at,” said Cllr Kilcoyne.