Many doctors unable to meet demand for flu vaccine
MANY GPs are getting only half the supply of the flu vaccine they are ordering from the Health Service Executive (HSE) because of rationing of stocks.
Several practices complained that they are not able to meet demands from at-risk patients as cases of flu continue to rise and more people are admitted with swine flu to intensive care.
In a letter to GPs, the HSE said the supply is "under pressure" and while it has received an additional 30,000 seasonal vaccines, it has had to order more, which it hoped would be delivered in the next two weeks.
All surgeries will get 500 doses of Pandemrix, leftover swine flu vaccine from last winter. These will be delivered with needles and syringes "in the next two weeks".
Seasonal flu vaccine, which protects against swine flu and other strains, is being prioritised for pregnant women and children aged six months to 18 years.
In the letter, the HSE's head of health protection, Dr Kevin Kelleher, said all other at-risk groups should be given the leftover vaccine regardless of whether they received it last winter.
"All those given Pandemrix will require a further dose of seasonal flu vaccine three weeks later," he added.
The ongoing pressures in dealing with swine flu came as hospital emergency departments reported an easing of overcrowding yesterday, although 361 people were still on trolleys in the morning.
The worst affected hospitals included Beaumont Hospital where 29 were waiting, University College Hospital Galway which had 21 on trolleys as did Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Last Wednesday there was a record high of 569 people on trolleys and chairs.
Meanwhile, hospitals should have a clearer idea today where there will be shortages of junior doctors when new rosters come into effect, the Health Service Executive (HSE) said.
At least 165 jobs for junior doctors, who are essential to services, are still unfilled but that number could double as the week unfolds.
More than 4,000 junior doctors begin new six-month contracts this week, with many of those taking up work in another hospital. Some will go abroad because of better training opportunities.
Regional hospitals will be worst hit. Several hospitals are expected to have to hire locum doctors, who are about 30pc more expensive than a permanent junior doctor.
A spokesman for Health Minister Mary Harney, who has returned to Dublin after a holiday abroad, said she would not be making any comment on hospital overcrowding.