'I didn’t expect this fight': Cork woman speaks of stress in sourcing vaccine for housebound mother

'I didn’t expect this fight': Cork woman speaks of stress in sourcing vaccine for housebound mother

A Cork woman has spoken of the “stress and frustration” in sourcing a vaccine for her housebound 69-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s in what she described as a fight she didn’t expect to have. Pic; Larry Cummins

A Cork woman has spoken of the “stress and frustration” in sourcing a vaccine for her housebound 69-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s in what she described as a fight she didn’t expect to have.

Speaking to The Echo, Louise O’Leary said she had spent weeks chasing an answer as to when her vulnerable mother, Sheila, would be vaccinated.

Cork TD Thomas Gould subsequently contacted the HSE on the matter and said they confirmed a plan was not in place for vaccinating housebound people aged under 70.

Ms O’Leary said that she felt “10 stone lighter” after her mother received the first dose of the vaccine on Thursday.

She said that the National Ambulance Service (NAS) administered the vaccine and that both paramedics “were so lovely and treated her so well”.

GPs unable to help 

It came after weeks of being told by the HSE to seek advice from GPs who were unable to help. 

She said that attending a vaccination centre also wasn’t an option as her mother has been housebound for almost two years and that a centre “isn’t a suitable palace for people with dementia to be anyway”.

“You’re made to feel you’re saying no to the vaccine but it’s the system that’s doing it. We didn’t think there were any options so the HSE said to try other GPs and see if they could come up to the house and they all said no that they had enough to be doing with their own patients and that most GPs were doing hubs such as at MTU and no one seems to be doing house calls.

“She’s 70 in September and to be told that, I couldn’t believe it."

She said that she was made to feel as though she was a fuss and that she was causing a problem and that if Deputy Gould hadn’t intervened that her mother “wouldn’t have her vaccine now and she would have been lost in the system”.

My mother can’t be the only person under 70 who is housebound."

She said that as a carer, she has had a tough time as “you can’t stop, you have to keep going” but encouraged others who may be in the same situation to “keep on top of it”.

“I really felt that we had left our mother down because there was no GP coming out to the house, the HSE was telling me a different thing every time I rang and I couldn’t bring her to the centre and you’re thinking if she did get Covid it would be a tragedy because there is a vaccine there.

“I didn’t expect this fight and it knocked me out. It’s beyond frustrating and you feel like giving up because you do feel invisible but you do have to keep going,” she said.

Ms O’Leary said that she is looking forward to seeing her mother fully vaccinated in the next month and to have family members and grandchildren able to see her mother again.

Issue raised in the Dáil

Deputy Gould criticised Health Minister Stephen Donnelly for his response to questions in relation to the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and said that he had hoped for “constructive engagement” with the Minister in the Dáil this week.

When asked about the situation regarding vaccinations for people who are housebound and aged under 70, the health minister had said that in such cases a GP needs to refer a patient and state that the patient is housebound. “There are cases where the National Ambulance Service can provide the service,” he had said

Deputy Gould said: “I asked the Minister if he was aware that there was no plan in place for vaccinating housebound people under 70. I had spent much of the two previous days attempting to help a lady in this situation and after seven phone calls and 17 emails, the HSE confirmed this plan wasn’t in place.

“The Minister’s unimaginative response was that the referrals must come from a GP - completely ignoring the issue. The constituent I helped had contacted five separate GP surgeries but none could make the referral because no plan is in place.

"These are vulnerable people and they cannot be left behind in the vaccine rollout,” he said.

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