The Government has agreed to a further review of cardiac services in Waterford and avoided a break-up of the Coalition after a junior minister’s threat to quit.
A dispute over increasing cardiac care at the hospital this week saw Mr Halligan threatening to go, after a clinical review ruled out recommending a second lab.
Crisis talks between the Independent Alliance minister and Health Minister Simon Harris broke up on Wednesday. Amid increased warnings from the TD that he would quit, the review of cardiac care was published. It found a second lab was not justified as activity at the hospital was appropriate for the catchment population.
But Mr Harris committed to improving cardiac services, staff levels, and equipment at the hospital yesterday while also promising a second review of Waterford’s cardiac services next year.
The commitment leaves the way for the Government to potentially accept a fresh set of recommendations for a cath lab and appease Waterford concerns.
Ministers either denied or refused to address claims yesterday by Mr Halligan that Fine Gael senior negotiators had reneged on a promise for a second lab.
Mr Halligan called them “dishonourable”. He said Finance Minister Michael Noonan had said providing a second lab was a “formality” and claimed Housing Minister Simon Coveney pledged it would be funded whether Mr Halligan supported the Government or not.
Mr Coveney denied this and said no “trickery” was involved. Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said: “I don’t know what other conversations may have happened on the side but what’s in the programme for government is what we signed up for. The programme for government is there in black and white and people can read what it says and what it says is that we would be willing to find the funds to build a second cath lab but it had to be subject to a clinical review.”
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald refused to address the claims, saying this would “not be helpful”.
But Mr Halligan’s claims that he and supporters were promised a second lab will raise questions as to what exactly was pledged by Fine Gael with him. His Facebook postings in June also reveal he was promising locals that new jobs and funding for a second lab were already agreed and on the way.
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