There has been an outbreak of Covid-19 at the hospital where the vaccine programme for the Cork-Kerry region was launched in early January.
Several staff and most of the patients at the Killarney Community Hospital have tested positive for Covid-19. The programme was launched before the results of routine testing of staff, carried out around the same time, was known.
Many of the patients at the community hospital, known locally as the District Hospital, have now recovered but high levels of staff illness are presenting huge challenges for day to day operations.
Cork Community Healthcare says it will not comment on any individual hospital. However, a spokeswoman said there is generally huge pressure on the system because of the number of outbreaks at residential facilities, including community hospitals across the region.
It has renewed its appeal for any available healthcare personnel who are not in the sector to contact them to help out.
The Cork-Kerry region’s vaccination programme was launched and rolled out in the Killarney Community Hospital and the nearby HSE St Columbanus long-stay residential facility on January 7. The programme continued for a number of days in Killarney.
However, the routine fortnightly testing of staff at residential facilities was being carried out around the same time.
The entire hospital community in Killarney received the vaccine, it is understood. However, the results for several staff members at the Community Hospital returned positive in the days after the vaccination. St Columbanus remains free of the virus.
Asked about the situation in Killarney, with vaccine rolled out before the results of tests were known, the HSE in a statement said there is “no evidence” of risk, providing the person is well.
People who are feeling acutely unwell or who has just been diagnosed with Covid-19 should not be vaccinated, the HSE also said.
However, the second dose of the vaccine has to be deferred for some time – for at least four weeks in accordance with the clinical advice, the HSE said.
“The second dose of vaccine should be deferred until clinical recovery from Covid‐19 and at least four weeks after diagnosis or onset of symptoms, or four weeks from the first PCR positive specimen in those who are asymptomatic,” the HSE said, citing the clinical guidelines.
In a statement, Cork Kerry Community Health care added: "While we cannot comment on individual cases or outbreaks of Covid-19 in order to protect people’s privacy, we can confirm that we are dealing with a number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in residential facilities in this region, both public and private.
At present, there are 49 outbreaks in residential settings across Cork and Kerry.
The level of staff illness and leave for Covid-related reasons is posing “a significant challenge “, the spokeswoman added.
"We also repeat our appeal for any healthcare staff, particularly nurses and healthcare assistants not currently involved in direct care of patients or residents and who are available to contact Chief Officer Michael Fitzgerald on MichaelM.Fitzgerald@hse.ie"