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Thursday 2 October 2014

New projects left stalled as two hospitals fast-tracked by minister

Eilish O'Regan and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 29/01/2013 | 05:00

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A NUMBER of much-needed health projects – which were at the same stage as hospital upgrades now fast-tracked in the constituencies of two cabinet ministers – have still not progressed one year later.

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The fact that proposed construction work on Wexford and Kilkenny hospitals had reached the "design stage" was one of the reasons given for why Health Minister James Reilly suggested they be accelerated.

He ordered that €13m be found to proceed with the hospital construction in Environment Minister Phil Hogan's constituency, while Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin provided €12m for his local Wexford hospital in June 2011.

Ministers have defended the fast-tracking of the upgrades in the back yards of two cabinet members, saying the decision was made by the HSE.

But a HSE internal report showed that by October last, several other proposed capital projects, which had also been at design stage, remained stalled.

They included:

• An endoscopy suite and an upgraded sterile services department in Roscommon General Hospital.

• Special care and high support residential facilities for children and adolescents in Dublin, Monaghan and Limerick, providing 24 beds.

• An upgrade of existing ward facilities at St Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital, Cork.

• Community-based accommodation for patients suffering from mental illness in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.

The report noted that at that stage the Kilkenny work had gone to tender and the Wexford project was under construction.

Dr Reilly will have to explain to cabinet colleagues today why he asked for special attention to be given to the Kilkenny and Wexford hospitals.

The HSE declined to say yesterday how its officials were part of a local announcement about the go-ahead even before the HSE had given its approval.

The HSE remained vague on how it managed to generate the funding needed for the Kilkenny upgrade from some "efficiencies".

Efficiencies

A spokeswoman said: ''No other projects were delayed, held or omitted from the capital programme to accommodate these projects."

Efficiencies were achieved by putting forward a programme of national tenders for medical equipment and by the fact that a number of major acute hospital projects were delivered under budget in 2011.

A spokeswoman said Wexford hospital project includes a new emergency department and obstetrics theatre.

So far €2.5m has been spent and the aim is to have it completed by 2014.

The St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny project involves an emergency department, medical assessment unit and a day unit. Work began last year and €1m has been spent so far and the aim is also to have it operational by 2014.

Irish Independent

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