A Cashel woman's close to three-month long battle to get her 94-year-old mother inoculated against Covid-19 ended last week when the National Ambulance Service arrived at her home to administer the first dose of the vaccine to her.
But Adette O'Connor strongly believes her mother, who is too frail to leave home, would still be waiting to be vaccinated if Adette hadn’t taken the desperate step of lobbying two local TDs.
And she fears there are other vulnerable housebound elderly people in the county who haven’t been vaccinated yet because they are not lucky enough to have a relative to fight their corner.
Adette highlighted that she was driven to make representations to Deputies Michael Lowry (Ind) and Jackie Cahill (FF) because she was unable to get information from the HSE and National Ambulance Service about whether her mother was on the list of housebound people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine and when she would get the jab.
Adette’s mother, whom she didn’t wish to name, came to live with her and her husband near Cashel last year.
She recalls her efforts to find out when her mother would be vaccinated were very frustrating. Phone calls and emails to the HSE didn’t yield any information. The HSE passed her onto the National Ambulance Service, which is tasked with vaccinating housebound people. But the service wouldn’t tell her if her mother was on the list for vaccinations or when she would be vaccinated.
The HSE also told Adette to contact her GP when she enquired about her mother.
Her GP, whom Adette stressed was very helpful, was only able to confirm that her mother’s details had been forwarded to the National Ambulance Service.
In desperation, she contacted Deputies Lowry and Cahill at the end of February.
“Both of them were very supportive and helpful but they felt the same frustration.”
The TDs made various representations at Government level and finally last Tuesday (April 27), a member of the National Ambulance Service from Dublin arrived at Adette’s home to give her mother the long-awaited vaccine.
Adette said she received 15 minutes’ notice of the paramedic’s arrival but she didn’t mind in the least. They were just thankful the wait was finally over. Her mother was one of a number of housebound people he was vaccinating in county Tipperary that day.
“I am delighted its resolved. It was a relief. We felt like having a party.”
Adette reports her mother felt fine after receiving her first Pfizer-BioNTech dose and was “thrilled” a man came from Dublin to give it to her.
She points out that her mother was the last in their household to get the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine despite being the most vulnerable member of the family. Both Adette and her husband and her mother’s carers all received the vaccine before her.
Adette is angry at the poor co-ordination of the vaccination programme for housebound people and the atrocious communication with their families. It has created a lot of unnecessary strain and stress for families in this situation, she said.
She can’t understand why the vaccination of people like her mother was handed over to the National Ambulance Service and not left with family doctors. Her home is just a mile from the GP practice they attend in Cashel. “I feel myself that if I hadn’t acted as an advocate for my mother, and if the politicians hadn’t got involved, we would probably still be sitting and waiting,” she added.
Deputy Michael Lowry said he has dealt with about nine cases where housebound constituents were left waiting for the vaccine. He believes many of those people have now, like Adette’s mother, finally received their first jab.
“The reaction I was getting from these constituents was that they felt forgotten. They were wondering had they fallen through a crack in the system? I think to a certain extent they had.”
He agrees with Adette that these people would probably be still waiting only for politicians raising these cases directly with the HSE and the Minister for Health. And he believes there are still elderly housebound people in the county who have yet to receive their first vaccination shot. He said there was a definite lack of co-ordination of this vaccination programme stemming from the fact the HSE hadn’t a proper database of housebound people and was relying on the databases of GPs, who were told their services wouldn’t be required in this area.
The Independent TD said he can’t understand why GPs or a team of nurses weren’t tasked with these vaccinations. He believes it was wrong to task the National Ambulance Service with this job as it’s already overburdened.
“I am dealing with the Ambulance Service every other week in terms of staff telling me about the enormous pressure they are under. They are completely under manned and under resourced. To expect this service to carry out this function and have its members trekking around the country is expecting too much.”
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