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Howlin lobbied HSE chief on his local hospital

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Brendan Howlin

Brendan Howlin

Brendan Howlin

MINISTER for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin lobbied the head of the HSE Tony O'Brien to improve staffing in his local hospital, it has emerged.

Mr Howlin, who is one of the HSE's toughest critics for failing to stay in budget, showed no restraint when he sent a personal letter to Mr O' Brien to look after the concerns of his own constituency.

He bypassed local HSE managers to go directly to the HSE chief saying he was concerned that there should be an "appropriate and ample staff complement in Wexford Hospital's maternity suite and A&E unit.

"I am most anxious to hear from you that the staffing needs of the new unit will be met to the highest national standard," he said in private correspondence obtained by the Medical Independent. He said he had already discussed it with Mr O' Brien at a Cabinet sub-committee on Health - a forum which looks at national policy rather than particular local issues.

He included a submission which the obstetrics department made on staffing levels in the Wexford Hospital.

The correspondence sent in March led to a response from the former National Director of Acute Hospitals Ian Carter, who said he can "confirm at this time that local hospital management are working closely with Dr Michael Shannon, Nursing and Midwifery Service Director".

Asked if additional staff have since been appointed, a spokesman for the HSE said the €7.5m A&E department in the hospital was opened by the minister in July.

In keeping with the national service plan of the HSE for next year, Wexford General Hospital has outlined its staffing requirements, and this will be "considered with submissions from other hospitals and in line with national priorities".

A spokesperson for the minister said he "understands" the staffing requirements for the maternity unit and A&E in Wexford General are being considered by the HSE in the context of the national service planning process for 2015.

Constituency

A spokesperson for Mr Howlin did not respond to further queries on why he chose to directly lobby the HSE on a constituency matter.

Mr Howlin will be crucial in deciding if Health Minister Leo Varadkar gets the extra €500m he is looking for in health funding in next month's Budget.

The health service is particularly hit by the moratorium in recruitment with hospital services such as A&E departments short of staff and heavily reliant on expensive agency workers.

Irish Independent