Reilly urged to explain hospital upgrades

Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 00:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has been urged to brief his Cabinet colleagues today about the decision to upgrade facilities at Kilkenny and Wexford hospitals.

The confirmation that the Minister told the HSE in 2011 to fast-track improvements at the hospitals, around the same time the emergency department at Roscommon hospital was being downgraded, has provoked a wave of condemnation from the Opposition, who claim the decision was influenced by the fact the constituencies each have a senior Government Minister.

The €20 million in funding for Wexford General Hospital was announced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin in 2011 before the formal HSE announcement.

The same applied to the announcement of €13 million for St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

Decision defended

The decision to improve the facilities at both hospitals was strongly defended yesterday by the Department of Health, with a spokesman saying Dr Reilly’s request for the acceleration of the projects was based on the real need to make improvements to the sites involved.

“In Wexford the emergency department was substandard and small. In Kilkenny the medical assessment unit has been housed in a Portakabin. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sanctioned the capital plan in June of 2011 which included the projects,” said the spokesman. He added that extra funding was provided by Government to ensure that the work could be done.

Explanations

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said yesterday Dr Reilly would update the Cabinet today about the reasons for the decision, and the Department of Health spokesman said his Minister would be “perfectly happy” to explain the decision to his colleagues.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher called on Dr Reilly to clarify the “disturbing” revelations. He said they again raised the question of political interference in health.

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it appeared the fate of hospitals would be determined by the presence or absence of Cabinet Ministers in the constituencies where hospitals happened to be located.

Mr Hogan accused Fianna Fáil of “trying to undermine” the new facility at St Luke’s Hospital. A spokeswoman for Mr Howlin said details for the original announcement came from the HSE.