Independent TD Mattie McGrath has called on the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee to investigate the spending of more than €22m on a hospital which has not had overnight patients in several years.
Mr McGrath accused the HSE of a “reckless waste of public money” and wants officials to be brought before the PAC to answer questions on Our Lady’s Hospital in Cashel, which has seen millions spent on equipment and wards but currently only hosts day-clinics.
Health Minister Simon Harris recently visited the hospital, which was once the main acute and surgical hospital for South Tipperary, and intimated he wants it to be part of the solution to overcrowding at South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH) just 25km away.
STGH in Clonmel is regularly high on the list of hospitals nationwide which are forced to put patients on trolleys in wards, corridors, and other public spaces.
Mr McGrath said the three-storey hospital in Cashel may never again admit patients to beds, under current plans.
“What is becoming ever clearer is the fact that since surgical services at Our Lady’s were finally transferred to South Tipperary General Hospital in 2007, the people of the area have been given the complete run around by the HSE.
"On countless occasions we were promised the delivery of up to 25 step-down beds to try and relieve the chronic pressure within STGH.”
The Tipperary TD said two reconstructions cost €10.15m and €12.6m since 2009.
“As I understand it, this is almost €7m over the original €15m budget, as it was outlined in a 2009 Regional Health Forum-South-Report. This is a massive sum of money that must be justified in light of what we are now hearing about the hospital never again being in a position to put a single patient on a bed.”
He has submitted parliamentary questions to Mr Harris “seeking definite answers” about the long-term plans for Cashel.
“In any event, the more we delve into this matter the murkier it is becoming. Tens of millions have been spent and we are not an inch closer to receiving the step-down beds, nor any other kind of bed for that matter. In light of this, I will refer this matter to PAC so they can call in the HSE and demand clarity and accountability for what is increasingly looking like a reckless waste of public money.”
During his visit to Tipperary in October, Mr Harris admitted he was surprised by the fact that Our Lady’s in Cashel has no overnight patients, despite the money that has been spent there in recent years.
“I do think there’s capacity to do so much more with Cashel,” he said at the time. “The building is there now, the taxpayers’ money has been spent and I’d like to see the building do much more.”
A decision on plans to relieve over-crowding at the hospital in Clonmel, which could include temporary “modular” accommodation, is expected within weeks.
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