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Braid Family Practice thanks Tullyglass House Hotel & MEA Council for kindness and generosity

The Braid Family Practice have acknowledged and thanked the management and staff of the beautiful Tullyglass House Hotel, Ballymena, and also Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Since December 2020, ten vaccination clinics have been hosted in the hotel, seeing hundreds in the community receive their Covid jabs, but the management of The hotel has refused to take any payment for the use of the facility.

The decision was taken to use a larger facility for the Covid vaccination clinics as it would eliminate the need to bring additional patients into the Health and Care Centre during the surge that was being experienced back in December. It also was considered better to host fewer but larger clinics, rather than lots of smaller ones.

Marie thought that Tullyglass would be perfect, with an on-site car park and the possibility of a separate entrance and exit point. Everything had to be thought of and carefully planned.

Upon speaking to the Gus McConville (Managing Director of Tullyglass House Hotel), the practice manager explained that he was immediately happy to be part of the effort. Gus told Marie that there would be no charge for the use of the hotel and they could have as many clinics as needed.

The past year has seen NHS staff, our healthcare heroes, working day-in-day-out across Northern Ireland to care for the people behind the daily numbers published by the Department of Health, tirelessly battling against an invisible virus that before 2020, was never known.

For the Braid Family Practice team, they were glad to have obtained further support via the Public Health Agency (PHA) to adminsiter the Covid vaccines, and had a regular dentist, district nurse and even a retired paediatrician join their team!

“The biggest obstacle we faced at the time was getting the vaccines, as supply was rationed,” explained Marie.

It is the kindness and generosity of Gus and the staff team at Tullyglass that is one of the many unknown stories of those behind the scenes - administration staff, civil servants, volunteers, businesses and organisations, who all have rallied to serve their communities in a health crisis, and to ultimately see lives saved.

Braid Family Practice Manager Maria McCann with Tullyglass House Hotel Managing Director Gus McConville

Maria McCann, manager of the Braid Family Practice, based in Ballymena Health and Care Centre said:

“On behalf of the patients, clinicians and staff of Braid Family Practice, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Tullyglass House Hotel for their kindness and generosity.

“They allowed us to use their beautiful hotel, not once but for nine hugely successful Covid-19 vaccination clinics, and refused to take any payment.”

Maria continued: “Since becoming a pilot practice for vaccination rollout on 6 January, we have worked hard to provide many vaccinations to our patients. It's been an emotional journey for everyone but here's to the future and inching back to normal.

“Thanks a million Gus and team.”

Maria also paid tribute to the staff of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, and in particular Mr Bobby Leighton (Assets Manager), who helped with the offer of Ballymena Showgrounds to use for a drive-thru flu vaccinations facility during October last year.

The practice needed somewhere sheltered but a marquee was going to cost over £3,000 from a private hire company.

Maria commented: “Bobby was great and gave us permission immediately. Mark Wilson, manager at the Ballymena Showgrounds, suggested that the concourse tunnel would work well.

“It was then down to planning the clinic and completing a risk assessment, that had to be submitted along with insurance details in order to obtain the licence.

“It was perfect, and allowed us to have five cars through at a time, with five clinicians vaccinating.”

Families came arrived together and those who could not drive or get a lift, were seen in the health centre as normal. On the first day at the drive-thru facility, staff administered almost 800 flu vaccines.

These were the first mass-vaccinations clinics to be held by the practice in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, and were a massive challenge for the staff who at the time faced many uncertainties, among a host of new procedures.

Well done to everyone involved in the amazing effort.