Nothing untoward about meeting with Lowry, says Harris
Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30
Health Minister Simon Harris has said there was nothing secret or untoward about meetings he held with Independent TD Michael Lowry relating to hospital services in Tipperary.
The former Fine Gael minister has been credited with securing a new 'patient hotel' and extra nurses for his constituency - but Mr Harris says the distribution of resources is solely down to the HSE.
And a spokesperson for the minister told the Irish Independent that Mr Harris has also met with the other Tipperary TDs to discuss the health service since taking up office.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has consistently refuted suggestions that any deal was done with Mr Lowry to secure his support for the minority Government.
However, it was reported yesterday that the Government put up no resistance to demands for the country's first patient hotel, comprising of 40 beds to help alleviate the overcrowding situation at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel.
On June 15, Mr Harris met with Mr Lowry and two senior consultants from the hospital.
Sanction has since been given by the HSE for 10 extra nurses and another 10 healthcare assistants for Tipperary.
A spokesperson for Mr Harris said he is "determined to prioritise hearing from people on the frontline in our health service".
They pointed out that he regularly holds a clinic for TDs from all parties on Wednesday evenings and it was in this context that he met Mr Lowry.
The HSE is currently drawing up its €40m Winter Plan for all hospitals, focussing on those under most pressure as we come into the winter.
The spokesperson added: "The minister's priority, politics aside, is to improve the experience for patients in every hospital this winter.
"One of the first actions the minister took when appointed to office was to set up the cross-party health committee to draw up a 10-year plan. Taking politics out of our health service is the only way forward to achieve the best possible healthcare for our citizens."
Chair of that committee Róisín Shortall said: "There shouldn't be any place for sweetheart deals when it comes to health spending."