Is Galway ready for swine flu?

More clinics needed to ensure vaccination goes smoothly, says Conneely

Two or three clinics giving the swine flu vaccination is not enough to deal with the population of county Galway and unless the HSE opens more clinics there will be problems for doctors and unnecessary stress caused to patients in rural areas.

This is the view of Fine Gael councillor and chairman of the HSE Board West Pádraig Conneely. He has welcomed the news that the HSE is about to roll out its swine flu vaccination programme but he is concerned by the number of clinics the HSE plans to open to cater for the county area.

The HSE’s national Swine Flu Vaccination Programme starts on Monday November 2. By that date, all participating GPs and HSE vaccine clinics will have vaccine. Some 70 to 80 per cent of GPs have signed up to give the vaccine. It is understood more GPs are signing up on a daily basis to give the vaccine free of charge to all who need it. Two vaccinations will have to be given to each person.

Galwegians whose GPs have not signed up can receive the vaccine at a specially designated clinic in Galway city, which is likely to be located at the out patients clinic at Merlin Park Hospital, or if they live in the county area, at two/three clinics which are due to be established by the HSE for administration of the vaccine.

As the vaccine is being delivered in phases, the HSE has started with the people who are more at risk from swine flu such as pregnant women and those with immunosuppression, haemoglobinopathies, diabetes, morbid obesity, as well as long term lung, heart, kidney, liver, and neurological diseases.

Once these at-risk groups have been completed, the HSE will move to the other groups from mid-November, including healthcare workers, children, and older people, before offering vaccines to the wider population.

“I hope the HSE are capable of rolling out this but to ensure it runs smoothly we need extra clinics,” Cllr Conneely told the Galway Advertiser.

Cllr Conneely alleges that the HSE originally planned to open six clinics, but has reduced that number to two/three clinics as the majority of doctors are participating in the vaccination programme. The outspoken councillor is “not entirely happy” with that response and he envisages problems for doctors and patients in rural areas unless more clinics are provided.

“A county of Galway’s size would need five or six as it’s a long way from Clifden to Ballinalsoe,” Cllr Conneely said. “As well as giving vaccines, GPS have their ordinary work to do attending patients and being on-call. What if somebody from a remote area in Connemara needs an injection and the doctor is attending a patient out in the Twelve Bens?

“In such cases people who are in the lower risk categories should be able to access the vaccination in a clinic. Opening the clinic from 9am to 6pm each day would help doctors and ensure there is no rush or long waiting times.”

Cllr Conneely said this is “an urgent situation” and the HSE “will have to be more aware” of the realities on the ground.

Specific information about the vaccines has been produced for people in the various risk groups and will be circulated to GP surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals, and other locations from November 2. The HSE is encouraging all potential risk groups to contact their GP to make an appointment to receive the vaccine.

The HSE 24 hr flu information line on

Freephone is 1800 94 11 00.

 

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