Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte today warned developers in talks with the Government about building private ’super-clinics’ on public land not to sign contracts ahead of the general election.
The senior opposition politician vowed to scrap the controversial scheme, spearheaded by Minister for Health Mary Harney, if returned to power with Fine Gael after the polls.
Mr Rabbitte appealed to the minister not to finalise negotiations with builders on the construction of private hospitals next to public hospitals until the next government is decided by the electorate.
He said health chiefs told a Dáil committee contracts would be signed next month despite a denial from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that any deals were imminent.
“When I raised the matter with the Taoiseach in the Dail two weeks ago he denied that there were any plans to sign contracts,” Mr Rabbitte said.
“However, giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee only two days later, both the Secretary of the Department of Health, Michael Scanlan and the chief executive of the HSE, Dr Brendan Drumm both said that they expected that contracts would be signed during April.”
The Labour leader insisted it would be politically and morally unacceptable for the Government to sign binding contracts weeks before a general election.
“I am challenging Mary Harney not to sign contracts for these clinics before the general election,” he said.
“I am also urging private developers to think carefully about signing up, just weeks before an election, to a system that the alternative government is committed to scrapping.”