Relief, happiness and hope were among the emotions felt by the 507 healthcare workers and residents at Bantry General Hospital after getting their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination
SHEER exhilaration and a light at the end of a long and dark road.
That’s how residents and staff at West Cork’s hospitals and nursing homes are describing the arrival of the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
In Bantry General Hospital, round one of the vaccination saw 507 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered to the 24 long-term residents of St Joseph’s unit, hospital staff, and also staff at West Cork’s Covid testing centre and other HSE services including West Cork Mental Health and local GPs. Lead vaccinator was Marguerite Murray.
Hospital manager Carole Croke said 2020 had been a very difficult year and that the vaccination brought welcome, positive relief.
‘You could feel the enthusiasm in the hospital. We always provide the very best of care, but this will allow our staff feel more confident in doing their jobs,’ said Carole.
At Cramer’s Court Nursing Home in Belgooly the majority of its 62 residents and 80 staff have had their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and are eagerly awaiting their second.
Teresa O’Donovan, activity co-ordinator at the home, said the excitement in the home was palpable in the lead-up to the arrival of the vaccines.
‘Everyone is well aware that it’s just the first step on the ladder to normality, but at least it is a first step,’ she said.
She acknowledged that their residents had, understandably been feeling very down after being separated from friends, families and even each other for so long.
‘It’s so hard to say to someone that they can’t go into a certain sitting room, or sit near someone,’ she said.
‘We’ve all curbed our own personal lives as well – it’s very hard to grasp the impact that the pandemic has had on people and the stress it has caused to families and residents. All the birthdays, anniversaries and other events that couldn’t be celebrated and residents wondering if it was their last one, no hugs, kisses, it was very distressing and hard for staff to witness on a daily basis,’ she said.
It has been very frustrating for residents, for their families and also for staff who are caught in the middle of a ‘whirlpool of emotions,’ Teresa said.
Staff at the home were swabbed every two weeks, and fortunately the home didn’t have any Covid cases.
‘We all know the vaccine isn’t a coat of armour but it’s bringing us a lot of hope,’ Teresa added.
Resident Betty Gaffney (81) said: ‘I’ve been a mother and a nurse and I never thought I’d see a worldwide pandemic in my life. But it’s here and we have to deal with it like everything in life and it’s something young people need to take more seriously,’ she said.
‘I had a lovely chat with the HSE nurse who gave me the vaccine and explained all about it, but I already knew it was right for me,’ she said adding that she’s very much looking forward to getting back to enjoying a cappuccino in local cafés.
Fellow resident Mary Horgan (80) said getting the vaccine was an easy decision to make: ‘All I want to do is get back to normality, I need to get back out.’
Meanwhile, in Clonakilty Community Hospital, Mary Nolan, director of nursing said they were thrilled that the vaccination of their residents and staff was now underway.
‘Our residents have been everyone’s priority at all times throughout this pandemic, and we are very hopeful that this vaccine will help us in our efforts to protect them and to keep them safe.
‘We in Clonakilty Community Hospital are sadly very aware of the devastating impact of Covid-19. While we are relieved for our treasured residents, we are also remembering the residents we lost to Covid-19 last year.
‘While we are hopeful that the vaccine will eventually provide some protection for our residents, we are also aware that they will need a second dose and it will be some weeks before they have the full benefit of the vaccine. We will continue to take every precaution we can to keep residents and staff safe.’
In Skibbereen Community Hospital, round one of the vaccination programme has been given to residents and staff, including local GPs and physiotherapists.
Sandhya Zachariah, acting director of nursing and peer vaccinator said it was a ‘light at the end of a dark road.’
‘The last 11 months have been really difficult,’ she said. Tadhg Daly, Drimoleague native and head of Nursing Homes Ireland added: ‘Nursing home residents and staff are enthusiastically receiving the vaccine and it is bringing great relief and joy to people in our nursing homes.
‘The rollout has functioned well and we thank the vaccination teams for their great work in administrating it across the country.
‘The vaccination is bringing great hope following what has been a really difficult and upsetting year for nursing home residents.
‘It should be noted a second round of vaccinations will be required to ensure residents and staff are protected from the virus and we take this opportunity to thank family and friends of nursing homes for their understanding in very difficult circumstances for all.’
• To know when you’ll be vaccinated, see www.omnicalculator.com/health/ireland-vaccine-queue