HEALTH Minister James Reilly has been called "gruff and rough and totally disinterested" as a spat between the minister and the Jack and Jill Foundation for sick children rumbles on.
Jonathan Irwin, CEO of the foundation, met Dr Reilly last week, but was less than impressed with the minister.
Mr Irwin's wife, Independent senator Mary-Ann O'Brien, put a motion down in the Seanad two weeks ago on the lack of a national paediatric home-care budget. However, junior health minister Kathleen Lynch promised Ms O'Brien a meeting with Dr Reilly if she withdrew the motion.
"My wife withdrew the motion and Kathleen Lynch delivered on her promise," Mr Irwin said last night.
The Jack and Jill Foundation nurses seriously ill babies in their homes until they are four years old, at a cost of €16,500 a year compared to €147,000 for in-patient hospital costs paid by the HSE. Mr Irwin wants the Government's help to extend the foundation's care for another two years.
He said: "He talked about carers, he faffed on about carers. Carers are absolutely vital to the well-being of sick people in this country but at the moment they are not trained to look after very fragile babies."
They were then interrupted for a Dail vote.
"He never reappeared and we were left with three civil servants. He dismissed us and it was a completely pointless meeting. He was gruff and rough and totally disinterested."
A spokesman for Dr Reilly said: "The work of the Jack and Jill Foundation is widely respected. Last week's meeting was held in that context. While Minister Reilly's and Minister Lynch's presence was cut short by a Dail vote, health department officials carefully noted the organisation's concerns."