A legal dispute that has delayed the provision of a dialysis centre in Wexford is costing the HSE some €460,000 annually in taxi fares for patients, the Dáil has heard.
Independent TD Mick Wallace said 39 patients had to be taxied from Wexford to Waterford Regional Hospital three times a week because of a delay in the development of the satellite dialysis centre, which was originally to be opened in 2012.
The taxi service is costing €38,330 a month and €460,000 a year, the HSE informed him. “We have been told Wexford will have an operational satellite dialysis unit in July 2016.”
The Wexford TD said the provision of the centre had been delayed because of a legal challenge by private dialysis providers to a tender awarded for contracted satellite services in Dublin.
He told the Dáil that Fresenius Medical Care (Ireland) Ltd, "part of a €20 billion corporation, secured an injunction restraining the HSE from awarding the contract to another company, Beacon Medical Group".
Mr Wallace said: "The core of the problem is that we have a situation where a service to the public is delayed for four years because of a battle between private companies."
He said the Government boasted it could borrow money at 1.7 per cent interest. But infrastructural development ended up at 17 per cent because it was done through public-private partnerships. “The EU rules are forcing states to make private investors fat,” he said.
“We should not be allowing these multimillion-euro corporations to delay much-needed services to public patients,” Mr Wallace said. “It is ridiculous.”
He added: “Worse still is the incalculable cost to the wellbeing of the dialysis patients affected. Many are in their 60s and one man who is nearly 80 spends 400 hours a year, 50 eight-hour days, travelling in a minibus three times a week, Mr Wallace said.
“The journey in a minibus in the cold and wet is tough for any individual. For many of Wexford’s elderly, it amounts to abuse.”
Tánaiste Joan Burton said she was unable to comment on the matter because it was subject to a legal challenge and she did not have the background details of the dispute.
However, she said she “broadly agreed” with Mr Wallace. And if money could possibly be borrowed more efficiently and cheaply, that was the way to go.