The HSE objected to the Department of Justice’s decision to open a direct provision centre for 150 people in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, when health services are “stretched to their limit” due to the pandemic.
At least four of the 105 people who were moved to the centre last month have this week tested positive for Covid-19.
The department has refused to say whether those 105 were among a delegation moved from a hotel in Dublin at the same time last month after it also experienced an outbreak of the virus.
What it has said is that it always moves people in consultation with the HSE as it is “leading the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
However, written communication has emerged between local councillor Michael Cahill and Ger Reaney, a senior officer with Cork Community Healthcare.
Mr Reaney said the HSE had little involvement in the opening of the Skellig Star facility in Caherciveen and that the decision to open during a pandemic had been made entirely by the Department of Justice.
He said: “The decision to open a direct provision centre, the location of the centre, and the decision to transfer people into that centre at a time of a pandemic was entirely a decision of the Department of Justice.
"The HSE received limited notice in regard to the opening of the centre and voiced its concern at the time in regard to the timing of the move and the access of the centre’s residents to health services at a time when all of our healthcare services are being stretched to their limit.”
Mr Cahill described the situation as “a shambles”.
He said: “Information is leaking out only because of the diligence of journalists in investigating this scandal. Feelings are running very high all over south Kerry and indeed throughout the county as a whole, with people wondering who is in charge of this shambles.”
Locals are concerned as to the levels of isolation and social distancing for the centre’s residents, not least as they are still entering shops and moving around Cahersiveen.
Earlier this week, Paul Collins of Remcoll Capital, the company running the 56- bedroom Skellig Star, said he had been requested by locals to lock down the building, but he cannot do so.
“I can’t lock down the centre. I just can’t do that under law,” he said.