Minister says care home debts will be paid


MINISTER FOR Health Dr James Reilly has said he will pay debts owed in relation to his investment in a private nursing home scheme.

Speaking at the opening of the €16 million 90-bed Cluain Lir Care Centre in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, yesterday, Dr Reilly said as a minor shareholder he was dependent on the other investors for a resolution.

Dr Reilly’s name appeared in Stubbs Gazette over the €1.9 million unpaid debt. This is believed to be the first time a government minister has been named in the 176-year-old publication. The debt relates to a nursing home in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary.

When asked would the money be paid, he said “absolutely, without fail. There is no question.”

However, he added: “As my attorney who has power over this area has pointed out to me, with a 9 per cent share he cannot dictate what happens. It has to be by agreement with the other partners in the undertaking.

“There is no more I can do vis-a-vis this situation other than encourage the people involved to try and reach a solution. I am very happy to settle my end of this debt but I can’t settle it on my own.”

Earlier in the day, Dr Reilly rejected suggestions his investment constituted a conflict of interest. He pointed to the €28 million being promised by the Government this week for a programme designed to enable patients to avoid long-term care.

“It is not the purpose of this Government or my policy to privatise long-term care. In fact, what we have to do is maintain our public position of care, we have to have that in case there is ever a problem in private care,” he said.

In relation to hospital consultants, Dr Reilly said extra flexibility was essential. “We have a seven-day-a-week admission and we have had up till now a five-day-a-week discharge. That has changed, consultants are starting to come in Saturdays and Sundays, I want that formalised in Croke Park. Yes, it would give us a very nice political warm feeling I think, in a lot of circles, to hit consultants over the head and take a large lump of money off them, but if that then ends up with a situation where less patients get treated less quickly, well then that is not a satisfactory outcome.”

On the HSE budget overrun, Dr Reilly said there was “room for improvement” in areas such as overtime, sick pay and agency work. The introduction of legislation allowing the use of generic drugs would also reduce costs, he added.