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Saturday 24 February 2018

HSE 'overspends €7m refurbishing hospital with no patients' - Dáil committee hears

Labour TD Alan Kelly: 'This issue is a unique moment where I agree with Deputy McGrath... it’s probably a first'

Our Lady's Hospital in Cashel, Co Tipperary. Inset; Alan Kelly TD (left) and Mattie McGrath TD
Our Lady's Hospital in Cashel, Co Tipperary. Inset; Alan Kelly TD (left) and Mattie McGrath TD

Cormac McQuinn and Philip Ryan

A HOSPITAL that allegedly had 'no patients' in the building during a recent visit by TDs, saw a HSE overspend of €7m on refurbishment work it has been claimed.

It is understood that the hospital caters for day patients, but hasn't had inpatients for a number of years.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has written to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over concerns at the alleged overspend at Our Lady's Hospital in Cashel, Co Tipperary.

Labour TD Alan Kelly told the committee that he visited the hospital with the health minister on one occasion and "there wasn’t one single patient in the building".

He said the issue is "a unique moment where I agree with Deputy McGrath from Co Tipperary. It’s probably a first."

"This is an incredible story which goes back the guts of 20 years in relation to agreements that there will be a new role for this hospital," he said.

Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke
Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke

"I visited this hospital with the minister for health – just to tell the committee – there wasn’t one single patient in the building.

"So it’s not just a case of where did the €7m go. It’s a case of what is it being used for or what will it potentially be used for while South Tipperary General Hospital, which we all know, is one of the biggest overcrowding situations in Ireland," Mr Kelly added.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Photo: Tom Burke
Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Photo: Tom Burke

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said there's "a strong argument for just calling the HSE in fairly promptly".

"To read from Deputy McGrath’s correspondence, it’s not just that there’s nobody in it. He states that in fact it will never have patients on beds. That’s his assertion," she added, before saying she didn't know if that's "correct or incorrect".

Mr Kelly said: "Many of us have been arguing that it’s obviously a disgrace that this facility is left like that.

"Not alone is it being left like that but the HSE are refusing to use it in relation to step down as regards people who are going through the theatres in South Tipp General Hospital and having their procedures.

"If it’s not going to be used as step down what in the name of God is it going to be used for?," he asked.

PAC Chairman Seán Fleming proposed writing to the HSE, enclosing Mr McGrath's letter and seeking "a full explanation of this overspend".

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris has called on the HSE to address the allegations.

Mr Harris said the HSE should “absolutely” come before the PAC to explain why the money was spent.

“As a former member of the PAC I welcome any time the Public Accounts Committee looks into how taxpayer’s money is spent and properly scrutinised and I expect the HSE will cooperate fully,” he said.

“It is important to note that the hospital in Cashel is not meant to see patients overnight.

"It is a hospital that largely provides primary care facilities. I do believe there is potential for that hospital to do much more.

"I have raised that with the HSE and I would like to see greater cooperation between South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel and also Our Lady’s Hospital in Cashel,” he added.

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