Tributes have been paid to the Defence Forces for the role they have played in the COVID-19 pandemic, backing up the health services in the mass testing and vaccination programmes.
During the early days of the pandemic, when mass testing centres were needed around the country rapidly, the defence forces were mobilised to help set them up, and later to assist in the same for vaccination centres.
Tony Canavan, CEO of the Saolta Hospital Group said that the past year has seen the “most ambitious vaccination programme that has ever been embarked on” in the history of the state.
“It has also been a huge success, and part of the reason for that success is because it’s been done in a collaborative way involving a range of partners and stakeholders.”
Canavan said that the Defence Forces have been “absolutely key” to this collaborative approach, and thanked all the members who have supported Saolta in the vaccine rollout.
Breda-Crehan Roche, Chief Officer of Community Healthcare West said that “incredible work” had been done by the Defence Forces, both in the vaccination campaign, and in the mass COVID testing programme.
One of the first testing centres for Galway City was a makeshift location established by the defence forces down by the city docks in 2020, later removed when the system no longer required it.
They would later go on to assist in setting up other test centres, and ensuring their smooth operation, as well as vaccination centres once that phase of the pandemic management began.
“Each and every one of you has made a significant contribution to the success of this vital programme, and we could not have done this without you.”
“I’m incredibly grateful to you for your dedication, your commitment, and your support. Thank you,” Crehan Roche said.
At the Ballybrit Racecourse vaccination centre, where more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated in the past six months, members of the defence forces played many roles.
These could include anything from administering the vaccines, to administrative issues such as managing stores and the pharmacy in this colossal undertaking.
Jean Kelly, Operational Site Manager in Ballybrit, said that their “logistical know-how” was a huge boon to the programme.
“We vaccinated over 2,500 people here a day and obviously that created challenges. But I was always confident that the Defence Forces would come up with a solution to whatever challenge I had.”
“Not alone were they practical and operational, they always had my back. I’m going to really miss working with such a fantastic team.”
“And on behalf of everybody working here in Ballybrit, I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to all our colleagues and friends in the Defence Forces.”