Reilly fast-tracked project at Wexford hospital despite listing as non-priority

Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 00:00

The upgrading of a hospital in Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin’s constituency was not a priority for the Department of Health, new documents show.

Just two months after the project at Wexford General Hospital was described by a department official as non-priority, Minister for Health James Reilly fast-tracked the development, as well as another hospital project in the constituency of Minister for Environment Phil Hogan.

Fianna Fáil yesterday called on Dr Reilly to make an immediate statement about the latest revelations in the controversy over the two hospital projects, while Sinn Féin said Mr Howlin and Mr Hogan had “serious questions to answer”.

However, Dr Reilly’s spokesman said he acted transparently and had always made clear his intention to revise his department’s priorities.

Upgrades listed

Upgrades to the emergency and maternity departments at the Wexford hospital were listed in the 2008 HSE Capital Plan, according to the documents released by the department to RTÉ’s This Week programme under freedom of information.

However, the April 2011 memo states that “neither was a priority project then”.

By June 2011, however, Dr Reilly had ordered the inclusion of the Wexford and Kilkenny projects in the 2011 Capital Plan. This was before the plan had been approved by the HSE board later that month.

Asked by Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness in July 2011 for financial details of the Kilkenny project, Dr Reilly said in a Dáil reply: “The management and delivery of the health capital programme is a service matter. I will revert to you with a detailed reply when I have received the facts from the HSE.”

Mr McGuinness said last night the Minister didn’t reply to his question until the following November. He said it was strange that Dr Reilly himself responded to the question, rather than referring it to the HSE for answer as was normal.

Budget increase

Other documents on the issue previously released by the HSE show that the capital budget had to be increased to take account of the inclusion of the Wexford and Kilkenny projects.

Dr Reilly’s spokesman said the Minister had confirmed he did request the HSE to expedite the two projects and for good reason.

He said Dr Reilly had done so in a transparent manner by way of a letter to the HSE board. “The decisions re Wexford and Kilkenny AEs were taken as the Minister (the Government) was appointing Dr Martin Connor to set up the Special Delivery Unit (SDU).

“Mr Reilly always made clear his intention to revise priorities in line with the programme for government. The setting up of the SDU was part of a strategy to make major improvements in the nation’s emergency departments. The expediting of the projects in Wexford and Kilkenny is part of this process.”