USI condemns the passing over of 39 Trinity medical students for the Covid-19 vaccine at Coome hospital

USI also called on Ministers Stephen Donnelly and Simon Harris to “ensure this never happens again

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has condemned the passing over of 39 Trinity medical students for the Covid-19 vaccine on the night it was given to 16 relatives of staff at Coome hospital.

In a statement to Trinity News, the USI said it was “very disappointed and concerned to see the story break”.

The medical students were working within the hospital and it is disgraceful that they were treated so poorly by the hospital. Actions like this fail to recognise students on placement as important members of the hospital community.”

USI also called on Minister for Higher Education Innovation and Research Simon Harris and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to “ensure this never happens again”.

At the inquiry into the incident, which took place on January 8, it was revealed that there were 39 medical students on standby to get the vaccines.  Professor Deirdre Murphy, Head of the Department of Obstetrics at Trinity, has told the review that hospital management was made aware of this an hour before the vaccines were given to the 16 relatives.  

The details are provided by Professor Murphy in a letter to Brian Kennedy SC who is the lawyer carrying out a review of the episode for the board of the hospital.

According to a senior staff member, the master of the hospital Professor Michael O’Connell told them that the hospital was “not in a position” to vaccinate the students. Two of Professor O’Connell’s own children had been vaccinated two days before.

Professor Murphy has said she is “personally embarrassed” by the incident, calling the arguments put forward by Professor O’Connell were “untenable”.

She continued to say that the hospital’s senior executive team were aware of the students on standby to receive the vaccines. The students had been previously advised by the Health Service Executive that they should be vaccinated alongside other health staff during their hospital placements.

Trinity had requested that the students be vaccinated and supplied information to the hospitals to that effect such as students PPS numbers. According to Professor Murphy, new PPS numbers had to be obtained for the international students, many of them from high-risk black and Asian ethnic groups.

Professor O’Connell apologised in January after the story was published by the Irish Times saying he had made “every effort to prioritise and identify additional frontline workers” for the vaccines on the evening of the incident.

Kate Henshaw

Kate Henshaw is current Editor-in-Chief of Trinity News, and a graduate of Sociology and Social Policy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.