Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke
A number of hospitals in the south of the country have received and administered a disproportionately large number of Covid-19 vaccines, relative to their size.
The Irish Times reports that more than one-third of doses given up to last Tuesday were administered in hospitals run by the South/Southwest Hospital Group in Cork, Kerry and Waterford.
This is despite the group being only the third biggest of the seven hospital groups by number of employees.
Figures obtained from the HSE show that the group had administered 19,840 vaccine doses by last Tuesday, and 22,000 by last Friday.
In comparison, 12,110 doses were administered to staff at the Ireland East Hospital Group — which has 1,500 more staff.
Relative to size, staff in the South/Southwest Hospital group were three times more likely to have received the vaccine than those in the west at the Saolta hospital group.
They were four times more likely to be vaccinated than those in the RCSI hospital group in Dublin and the northeast.
The new figures come after it emerged last night that 10 construction workers at University Hospital Kerry were among those who received the vaccine in the South/Southwest group.
On Monday, Siptu’s health division representative Kevin Figgis warned about “levels of confusion” surrounding priority groups in the vaccine rollout.
Trade union members had told him of vaccination clinics being held within hospitals where some staff were turned away, he said.
Mr Figgis said he was concerned that staff who were in direct contact with patients were not as high on the priority list for vaccination as they should be.
Media reports in recent days of leftover vaccines being given to non-healthcare workers did not instil confidence, he said.
There was a lack of clarity in the sequencing document over how a vaccine should be rolled out, he added. Trade unions were engaging with the HSE on the rollout and when they raised such issues they were addressed, he said.
The Government and HSE have yet to publish detailed figures on the Republic’s vaccine rollout, which has come under increased scrutiny after it emerged that relatives of hospital staff were given vaccines at two Dublin hospitals.
HSE national lead for acute hospitals Dr Vida Hamilton said larger hospitals had received bigger amounts of vaccines in an attempt to use doses “efficiently and effectively”, and supply had been “more uneven than anticipated”.
She added that a lot had been learned since the initial “teething problems”.
Meanwhile, an infectious diseases consultant has said that to focus on a few instances of leftover vaccines being given to non-health care workers is “missing the bigger picture”.
Dr Arthur Jackson, who works at Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital, told Newstalk Breakfast that the bigger picture surrounding vaccinations was “a very positive story”.
Dr Jackson said that while the situation with leftover vaccines could have been better handled, it was not “a glaring issue.”