Saturday 20 January 2018

Reilly pledges to pay nursing home debt 'in coming months'

Health Minister James Reilly at the Cluain Lir Care Centre in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, yesterday
Health Minister James Reilly at the Cluain Lir Care Centre in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, yesterday

Eoghan MacConnell and Fionnan Sheahan

HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly hopes to have his debt arising from his nursing home investment finally sorted out in the coming months.

And in his day job in the Department of Health, Dr Reilly said he would be taking steps to deal with the spending over-run.

He wants the seven-day-week working rota for hospital consultants to be agreed under the Croke Park deal.

Dr Reilly said he hoped the debt, which resulted in him being named as a debt defaulter in 'Stubbs Gazette', would be paid over the coming months.

He said he would pay the money owed "absolutely, without fail" but it was not a situation he could address on his own.

His lawyer, who has power of attorney over this interest, told him that with a 9pc share he could not dictate what happened. He said it needed the agreement of the other partners in the deal.

"I am given to understand that there is a new dynamic involved now since all this recent publicity and that we should get a resolution," he said.

Dr Reilly said he hoped the debt would be paid in the coming months but was unable to give any specific timeframe.

"The Taoiseach has made it very clear that he understands the difficulty that I am in, vis-a-vis this particular investment, which I made 12 years ago," he said.

Dr Reilly said he tried to sell his share in the nursing home three years ago but it wasn't possible "for a variety of reasons".

"There is no more I can do other then encourage the people involved to try and reach a solution. I am very happy to settle my end of this debt but I can't settle it on my own," he said.

Improvement

The minister was speaking following visits to St Joseph's Care Centre in Longford and the new 90 bed Cluain Lir Care Centre in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Dr Reilly said he was addressing the HSE budget over-run and there was "room for improvement" in areas like overtime, sick pay and agency work.

He also said money would be saved from prescribing generic drugs.

The minister said he was tackling consultants' pay, and a seven-day working week roster had been brought into hospitals.

"We have a seven-day-a-week admission and we have had, up till now, a five-day-a-week discharge.

"That has changed, consultants are starting to come in Saturdays and Sundays, I want that formalised in Croke Park," he said.

Dr Reilly said last year 70,000 bed days were saved, worth €63m, through changes in consultant work and practices.

"The money is important for sure but what's more important to me is that more patients get treated more quickly.

"Yes, it would give us a very nice political warm feeling, I think in a lot of circles, to hit consultants over the head and take a large lump of money off them.

"But if that then ends up with a situation where less patients get treated less quickly, well then that is not a satisfactory outcome. The satisfactory outcome for the taxpayer has got to be a cost-efficient service that delivers more care to more patients," he added.

Irish Independent

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