A senior hospital consultant sought Independent TD Michael Lowry’s help on a new “hospital hotel” to tackle overcrowding as he has “the ear” of the minister.
Mr Lowry and two senior staff members at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel recently met with Health Minister Simon Harris over trolley and staffing crises. It has since been announced additional staff and an extra 40 beds will be provided through a modular hospital hotel to help ease overcrowding over the winter period.
Mr Lowry supported Enda Kenny for Taoiseach but the Fine Gael leader has repeatedly denied that the Tipperary TD received any deal for doing so.
But, yesterday, fellow Tipperary Independent Mattie McGrath said other TDs had been campaigning for additional services for the hospital for many years and said Mr Lowry’s “solo run” was a “retrograde step”.
Mr McGrath said he had also met with Mr Harris on the issue several times.
“We’ve worked together as a team. This is the first time that some consultants have gone off with one politician, some of them have even campaigned with him.”
Professor Paud O’Regan, one of two senior hospital staff who accompanied Mr Lowry at the meeting with the health minister on June 15, said yesterday that the meeting was “extremely important”.
“Really the difference between Mattie McGrath and himself [Mr Lowry] is that Mr Lowry is a supporter of the Government and, therefore, much more able to facilitate these meetings and to get the ear of the relevant minister.
“As a supporter of the Government, that has been my experience in some 30 years of trying to deal with political matters to do with the hospital, that members of the Government or supporters of the Government obviously have better access and are more likely to be listened to,” Prof O’Regan told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme.
But he denied Mr Lowry has an unwritten deal with Mr Kenny’s government.
“No absolutely not, other than he is a supporter of the Government and therefore he is looked on more kindly than either of the other two TDs local to Clonmel who did not support the Government and who are therefore members of the opposition.”
Prof O’Regan said the hospital hotel could be put in place within 10 days of getting the go-ahead, but it could be delayed if planning permission was required.
“These are removable modular units and they may not require planning permission, but that isn’t clear.
“They are really modular units, they come along as singular rooms with bathrooms en-suite, they can link on to the hospital. They provide care for the less acute patients, they are not suitable for the very acutely ill patients but patients pre and post surgery, patents who are within a few days of being let home, and patients who are awaiting investigations.”
He said such units have been used in Scandinavia and across the UK. “The staff would come under the HSE management, but the actual recruitment and payment of the staff would be from the company providing the units.”
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