Ministers defend upgrades to hospitals

Ministers have defended planned upgrades to hospitals in their constituencies which have been fast tracked by colleague James Reilly, the health minister.

Ministers defend upgrades to hospitals

Phil Hogan, the environment minister, yesterday said he had no problem making representations to his cabinet colleague over the future of St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny, which is in his constituency.

His comments came after weekend revelations that Dr Reilly approved the upgrading of another facility, Wexford General Hospital, despite the fact it was not a priority in the HSE’s capital plan.

Documentation obtained by RTÉ had previously showed that Wexford and St Luke’s should have their developments accelerated under the capital plan.

The hospitals are in the constituencies of Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin, who represents Wexford, and Mr Hogan, who represents Carlow-Kilkenny.

Mr Hogan yesterday told RTÉ’s Drivetime that he was entitled to lobby for the benefit of his local hospital.

“I’ve always made representations on behalf of better health facilities for the people for Carlow-Kilkenny. I did no more or less than I would do on any occasion before I became minister.”

He said it was “totally unacceptable” to have patients being treated in a portable building in St Luke’s Hospital and that he was pleased the HSE agreed to new units in 2011.

He said he had made representations about the hospital in the memory of Suzie Long, a mother of two who died of cancer in 2007.

He said Dr Reilly was ultimately responsible for making these decisions.

He also said Sinn Féin was talking nonsense when accusing ministers of interfering with the process because it was his right to make representations for his constituency.

Mr Hogan denied that plans for his constituency’s hospital had “jumped” the queue, saying the HSE was the one which had prioritised it.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil called on Mr Howlin to make a statement clarifying his role in the upgrading of Wexford General.

A statement from Mr Howlin’s department later said the extension to Wexford General had been included in the national development plan for 2007-2013.

Planning permission for the project had also been granted in early 2011, prior to the last election, his department pointed out. Mr Howlin’s department had gone on to sanction the HSE’s capital plan for all areas submitted, it was added.

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