Clare Councillor Ann Norton has expressed grave concern about reports that €2,500 was spent purchasing a massive Christmas tree for University Hospital (UHL) in Dooradoyle.
Describing this expenditure as a “waste of money,” the Independent councillor said it should be possible to purchase a very good Christmas tree for €200.
She said this money would be put to much better use hiring nurses to try and reduce the long waiting times for people on trolleys in UHL.
While acknowledging that it was important to create a Christmas spirit, she said patients would prefer to see a smaller Christmas tree and better care when they had to attend the Emergency Department.
“I am not against the principle of putting up a Christmas, tree but it is important the HSE gets its priorities right. Which is more important, spending money on a very large Christmas tree or hiring extra staff to provide proper care in the UHL Emergency Department?”
Another hospital source said that the Christmas tree was so big, that a space of between six to eight feet had to be dug to place the tree in a prominent position outside UHL.
Her concern coincides with major public disquiet over the overcrowding at UHL, which has prompted members of the INMO and SIPTU to ballot their members over the implementation of a controversial escalation plans for acute hospitals in the region.
Concern has been expressed about the alarming deterioration in the UHL Emergency Department in recent months. According to official figures, there were 484 patients on trolleys in October 2014 compared to 244 in October 2013.
In September 2014, UHL had 551 patients on trolleys compared to 345 patients in September 2013.
Responding to the criticism over the tree, a UHL group spokeswoman outlined how every year, UL Hospitals puts up a Christmas tree at UHL.
“This forms part of the way that the hospital celebrates the festive season for patients, visitors and staff. Children from the Children’s Ark are invited to turn the lights on and really enjoy the occasion.
“A range of events are organised by different departments across the hospital to celebrate Christmas including visits by Santa to the Children’s Ark and a carol service by the UHL staff choir,” said a UHL group spokeswoman.
The spokeswoman declined to comment on the cost of the tree.