€150m healthcare facilities idle as cuts bite

HEALTH care facilities worth up to €150 million are lying idle around the country because of government funding shortages.

Last night Opposition spokesperson for Health, Fine Gael’s Olivia Mitchell said it was “a disgrace” that facilities funded by the taxpayer weren’t being used.

In the Midland Health Board (MHB), a 12-bed observation ward in Mullingar General Hospital has been under lock and key since last September because of staff shortages and funding requirements.

In the same health board, a €2.8 million 90-bed elderly care unit remains unoccupied because there is no money to equip it.

A €96.4 million hospital in Blanchardstown, in the Northern Area Health Board (NAHB), which was to replace the James Connolly Memorial Hospital, remains unoccupied, except for 45 patients, says the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO).

A spokesman for the NAHB said he did not know when the remainder of the new hospital would open because they had no funding commitment from the Eastern Regional Health Authority.

In the Western Health Board (WHB), a €10 million radiotherapy bunker has not been equipped due to lack of funds and the same applies to a nearby €40 million cardiac surgery unit.

The health board does not have the funds, though it is hoped both facilities will be operational by December.

And a new A&E unit at Naas General Hospital, built at a cost of €70 million, cannot cater for any additional patients or provide any additional services following its delayed opening last month.

INO representative Kevin O’Connor said failure to open the 90-bed Birr Community Care Centre meant 70 elderly patients continued to reside in the old facility at St Brendan’s which he said was “vermin infested”.

The 12-bed observation ward in Mullingar General had been equipped “down to the bed linen,” Mr O’Connor said, but a funding shortage was keeping it closed.

A statement from the MHB said: “The beds cannot open with existing staffing levels. The Board is in discussion with the Department of Health in relation to the extra staff and funding requirements.”

Meanwhile, the Controller and Auditor General has finished his value for money report into the hospital waiting list system. The report is expected to be deeply critical of the management of the health system and the use of resources. The Hanly report into restructuring of the health services is expected to come before the Cabinet in the coming weeks.

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