Junior Minister John Halligan has accused Fine Gael of breaking its word on the provision of additional cardiac services for Waterford hospital.
Mr Halligan told local radio station WLR FM on Thursday morning that Michael Noonan and Simon Coveney explicitly promised him that a second catherisation laboratory would be provided for University Hospital Waterford (UHW) during the negotiations on the formation of the government.
“During the negotiations, Michael Noonan; and all of my negotiation team were there at the time along with the Independence Alliance; [Noonan] said, ‘look John, this review is only a formality. Fine Gael cannot be seen to be doing political favours for anybody, so the cat-lab will be delivered’.
“Simon Coveney said during the negotiations, ‘Well John if you don’t sign up and if you don’t agree to this we will deliver the second cat-lab for Waterford anyway’.
“What has happened in the intervening period? There must have been some influence somewhere on the review.”
However, a high-level Government source has disputed this account of the talks on the formation of the government.
The source also said that Mr Halligan had been informed of the results of the review into cardiac services six weeks ago.
Fine Gael is unwilling to grant Mr Halligan any major concessions on his local hospital over and above what is recommended in a clinical review.
Minister for Health Simon Harris met Mr Halligan on Wednesday night and outlined how the independent clinical report could improve services at the hospital.
Mr Harris, however, has stressed that he is sticking to the conclusions of the report – with the exception of offering an additional review of the hospital in one year’s time.
The Irish Times reported on Wednesday that services at Waterford hospital could be reduced as a result of the clinical review which recommends against the expansion of cardiac care services.
The clinical review found there was no need for a second laboratory. Mr Halligan has criticised the review’s terms of reference, and said a new review would have to take place with terms of reference approved by the Independent Alliance.
“The terms of reference are completely wrong. It does not take into consideration that the HSE itself in 2014 identified the lack of a second cat-lab for the UHW to be a severe clinical risk,” he said.
Mr Halligan met with consultants at the hospital on Thursday morning. Speaking on Newstalk after the meeting, Mr Halligan said, “They [the consultants] have asked me not to go yet. Let’s see the review, see can they take something from this when they analyse it. If they say that the review is flawed and the terms of reference were not correctly adhered to, then all of this could be turned around.”
Mr Halligan said he went into Government on the basis of specific commitments about the hospital, but now “they are breaking that commitment”.
Asked directly if he would resign, he said, “I’ll have to if they don’t deliver something that the people of Waterford want.”
Patience with Mr Halligan is growing thin in both Fine Gael and among his Independent Alliance colleagues, and his future participation in Government is now in severe doubt.
The present review “would have to be scrapped”, he said, but both the Taoiseach and Mr Harris said on Wednesday that the review, carried out by a senior independent clinician, could not be changed or ignored.