Howlin says upgrade for Wexford hospitalin train since 2008
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has denied he was "feathering his constituency nest" in authorising the upgrading of facilities at his local hospital in Co Wexford.
The Government has come under fire in recent weeks over allegations that Minister for Health James Reilly fast-tracked developments at hospitals in Wexford and Kilkenny in the constituencies of Mr Howlin and Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.
Under Government rules Mr Howlin has to co-authorise the health service capital plan.
Speaking on the Today with Pat Kenny show on RTÉ radio yesterday, Mr Howlin said documents in his possession showed that the upgrading of Wexford General Hospital had been in train since 2008.
He said the HSE's regional service plan for the southeast for 2011 stated that one of its key priorities was to progress emergency and maternity facilities at Wexford General Hospital from planning and tendering to completion.
He said emergency facilities were based in a converted pharmacy, where there were four cubicles to treat 40,000 patients annually.
Mr Howlin said that shortly after he became Minister a meeting of local representatives in Wexford was told that the project, despite being promised and prioritised, was not going ahead.
He said Dr Reilly had visited Wexford General Hospital both before and after his appointment, and had determined that the existing facilities were wholly unacceptable.
Mr Howlin said that on appointment all governments reviewed capital expenditure.
He said he was amazed at suggestions in recently released documents that the project was at an early design stage when it had in fact secured full planning permission and was in the capital programme.
"I made the announcement in Wexford at a routine opening of a Cat scan in Wexford, with a script vetted and the detail provided by the HSE, with the regional director of the HSE, who was in the photograph."
He said he was surprised that politicians, who had expressed disappointment when it appeared the planned upgrading of the hospital was delayed, were now angered at the fact that the upgrade was going ahead.
He said Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin locally had wanted an inquiry into where the money had gone; why on the change of government the money had disappeared.