A Connemara GP has told of how he had to drive around the area on Saturday night looking for needles and syringes so he could vaccinate patients on Sunday when he received a delivery of the Pfizer vaccine at short notice.
Dr Peter Sloane told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that he had been shocked and surprised when other GPs in the area had received “hundreds” of doses of the Moderna vaccine while he did not receive any vaccines at all despite submitting an order as instructed by the HSE.
His colleagues had quickly made plans to vaccinate as many patients as they could and went down the list of age groups including some under 70.
“They did it quickly and efficiently,” he said.
But in the meantime Dr Sloane’s patients were upset that they were not being vaccinated “I was getting eviscerated because I didn’t have the vaccine for anyone.”
He made “vociferous representations to the HSE” and eventually last Friday evening at 5pm received a phone call from the HSE that he would receive a delivery of the Pfizer vaccine at 8am on Saturday.
He and his staff made a plan to vaccinate patients, but by 5.30pm on Saturday evening they still had not received any syringes or needles with which to deliver the vaccine.
“I drove around Connemara seeking needles and syringes.”
At 9.30pm on Saturday he received an email saying there would be an emergency delivery on Sunday morning and he and his staff were able to vaccinate 120 patients on the day.
But the stress on him, his staff and community was dreadful, he said.
“That will put me in an early grave.”
Dr Sloane said he has placed orders for further vaccines for the remaining age cohorts and had been told he will receive further doses on March 15.
“This is not rocket science. The HSE knew this was coming since last April. They should have planned ahead.
"There needs to be absolute clarity and better communication and confidence that vaccines will be delivered along with needles and syringes.
“We need that communication so we know what we are doing and so we can deliver what is asked of us, but we can’t do that blindfolded and with one hand tied behind our back.”
On the same programme, Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said that the HSE needed to learn from the mistakes of the past week with regard to deliveries so they could iron out any future difficulties.
Mr Calleary said that he had confidence in the HSE which had done “a phenomenal job” with the roll out of the vaccine to nursing homes.
A proper logistics system needed to be put in place.
There didn’t need to be a Minister for Vaccines “running around the country chasing doses” there just needed to be better planning and communication, he said.