A health trust has apologised after a system glitch meant people were able to book Covid-19 and flu vaccination appointments at a Belfast venue which was actually shut.
hose affected criticised “very poor management” after turning up at the Royal Victoria Hospital centre on Monday to find the facility closed.
The Belfast Trust blamed it on an “administrative error”.
The chief medical officer has emphasised the importance of vaccination to help the health and social care system get through winter.
Professor Sir Michael McBride warned of the potential for healthcare to be further destabilised by an increase in flu cases and a resurgence in Covid-19 infections.
“We will all need to play our part in supporting our staff get through the coming weeks,” he said prior to the festive break.
“We, the public, need to get our flu and Covid-19 vaccines, to protect ourselves, others and the health service from potential surges from these viruses.”
However, some people were critical of the fact they booked appointments at a centre which was not open on Monday.
David and Rose Stewart, both 67, said it was “very poor management” to accept bookings for a bank holiday when the centre was closed.
The Bangor couple are due to go to Spain on Thursday for several months, and it has been nearly impossible to get an appointment with either a pharmacy or the local trust, they said.
Mr Stewart said: “Myself and my wife had booked to have season flu and Covid booster vaccinations at the Royal Victoria Hospital for Monday through the online booking system.
“We later received reminders about attending. However, when we arrived at the appropriate time after travelling from Bangor, we found that the centre was closed.
“Another person who also made a similar appointment phoned the hospital and found that the centre was closed due to it being a bank holiday.
“Several other people were similarly let down by the system accepting appointments even though it was known the centre would be closed.”
Although they have been able to rearrange the bookings, it has been “very inconvenient”, Mr Stewart added.
Others faced similar issues with January 2 appointments, saying they’d “love to book their winter Covid and flu vaccine” and were able to do so online for the Royal.
Unfortunately, they also discovered the vaccine centre was shut and experienced some difficulty in re-booking.
The Belfast Trust told the Belfast Telegraph that everyone affected is being contacted on Tuesday.
The Trust said it would like to “sincerely apologise” to those who had booked a slot for vaccination and on arrival discovered the centre was closed.
It added: “Bookings for this period were to be disabled on the system, however due to an administrative error, it was still possible to book an appointment.
“Staff will today contact anyone who was booked on this date to apologise and reschedule.
“We are very sorry that a number of people had a wasted journey and will work quickly to ensure they get a new booking date as soon as possible.”