VHI CEO steps aside pending investigation into him receiving Covid-19 vaccine at Beacon Hospital

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A statement from VHI said that its CEO John O’Dwyer had received treatment for cancer at the Beacon Hospital.

THE CEO OF VHI has stepped aside pending an investigation into his receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine at the Beacon Hospital. 

A statement released this evening said that the Board of VHI learned this morning that its CEO John O’Dwyer received a Covid-19 vaccination at the Beacon Hospital.

The VHI Board said that O’Dwyer has been a patient of the Beacon Hospital and St James’s Hospital for oesophageal cancer.

“The Board is commencing an investigation to establish the facts. While the investigation is ongoing John O’Dwyer has offered to step aside as CEO and the Board has agreed to this,” it said. 

Declan Moran has been appointed acting CEO in the meantime.

The Beacon Hospital has been at the centre of a controversy after it was revealed that private school teachers and creche workers were vaccinated out of step with the Government’s vaccine priority list.

Frontline healthcare workers, nursing home staff and residents, and those aged over 70 are among the first groups to be prioritised for vaccination. 

The Irish Daily Mail first reported on Friday that the Beacon Hospital gave surplus Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to 20 teachers at a private school in Co Wicklow on Tuesday 23 March. The paper also reported that the children of the Beacon’s CEO, Michael Cullen, attend that school – St Gerard’s in Bray.

Today, St Gerard’s apologised for its involvement, and claimed that the school was told the vaccination of some of its teachers was “appropriate and had HSE permission”.

In a statement on Friday, the Beacon Hospital said that there were leftover vaccines due to a scheduling error with the Aviva Stadium vaccination centre.

The Beacon Hospital had been used as a vaccination hub to inoculate frontline healthcare workers, but Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly requested on Saturday that its vaccine operations be suspended.

The hospital is to carry out an independent review to “ascertain all of the facts associated with the operation of the vaccination centre”. In a statement yesterday, the Hospital said it “unreservedly apologises to our patients, staff and the wider community for the upset caused by the vaccination of teachers in the Beacon Vaccination Centre”. 

The Irish Daily Mail has since reported that staff at a creche chain, including the CEO and admin workers who wouldn’t work directly in caring for children, also received Covid-19 vaccines at the Beacon Hospital during February and March.

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When asked about the issue at a briefing today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:

“These vaccines belong to the people. Those of us who are charged with the administration of these vaccines, and those agencies, have to make absolutely sure and certain that vaccines are administered in accordance prioritisation that is laid down, in accordance with the rules and the protocols that are laid down.

Any deviation from that is not acceptable.
The behaviour – in terms of what’s happened in the Beacon – has [done damage]and has angered the public, and rightly so.

“In terms of the CEO of the VHI… my view on that is similar. Everything has to be in accordance with the current position as set down.”

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