Lowry's controversial proposal for 'patient hotel' yet to get green light
A controversial proposal to build a "patient hotel" to relieve pressure on beds in a hospital suffering severe overcrowding is still "under discussion," it has emerged.
The hotel, which would form a 40-bed extension to South Tipperary General Hospital, was announced by local Independent TD Michael Lowry.
It sparked allegations that he had entered a "sweetheart" deal with Health Minister Simon Harris in return for supporting the Government.
However, a spokeswoman for the hospital said yesterday that while the proposal was being discussed it had yet to get the official go-head.
"There is currently a capacity issue at South Tipperary General Hospital and additional beds are required to reduce the numbers of patients awaiting inpatient beds on trolleys, and to function at normal operating levels," the spokeswoman added.
If the so-called hotel gets the go-ahead, it would be used as a step-down facility for mostly elderly patients who no longer need care in the main hospital but are still not ready for discharge.
Mr Harris insisted there was nothing secret about his recent meeting with Mr Lowry and he has also discussed the matter with other TDs in the constituency.
Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath insisted Mr Lowry was on a "solo run".
He added: "It's not the first of its kind. There is a similar facility operating in Cork."
Hospital consultant Paul O'Regan said he and another doctor were part of a delegation that went with Mr Lowry to the Department of Health to discuss the plan.
Mr Lowry has "more clout" because he is a supporter of the Government and looked more kindly on, Dr O'Regan told RTÉ's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke'.
He believes a bed in the unit would cost around €1,500 a week, compared to a cost of €1,000 a day in the hospital.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the need for more beds in the hospital was "self-evident".
But they warned the new facility must be staffed and patients would continue to need high levels of care.