THE cost of providing security at Kerry General Hospital has soared upwards in the last year.
New figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the HSE South is forced to spend over €500,000 a year to a private security firm in order to keep patients and staff safe at Kerry's main hospital.
In 2011 the HSE paid Dublinbased private security firm, Noonan Services, €511,000 to provide security at KGH.
That figure looks set to be dwarfed by the security spend at KGH in 2012 with the newlyreleased figures showing that by the end of September last year, the HSE had already spent €513,000 on security at the hospital.
That's the equivalent of €170,000 per quarter, or over €56,000 a month, and more than the HSE South spent on security at KGH for the entirety of the previous year.
The figures also show that the cost of providing private security at KGH is by far the highest of any of the hospitals run by the HSE South with KGH accounting for almost half of the HSE South's entire private security budget last year.
At Cork University Hospital, where most security functions are now carried out by the HSE's own staff rather than outside contractors, the private security bill to the end of September 2012 was just €72,000.
This represented a massive drop on the previous year when the HSE South spent €275,000 on private security at CUH.
In the same period both Mallow and Bantry General Hospitals spent just €97,000 each on private security guards.
Explaining its private security spend, the HSE said significant security is needed to cover the large number of scattered buildings, such as administrative centres, clinics and labs, located on hospital campuses and which may be empty at night.
The increased cost of private security was not linked to an increase in violent incidents or thefts but resulted from inflation and the expansion of hospital facilities.
A significant portion of the private security bill at KGH arises from the cost of providing baby monitor alarms in maternity units and the provision and maintenance of electronic security measures including CCTV and general alarm systems.
At KGH, Noonan Security provide 24 hour security in the emergency unit.
This is in addition to guarding gates and ward entrances, performing patrols of grounds, carparks and labs, alarm monitoring, key holding services, money collection and the protection of cash in transit to and from the hospital.