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Late, rude and gruff - that was James Reilly at our brief meeting

Health Minister James Reilly has been accused of being "late, rude, gruff" during a 12-minute meeting with the founder of the Jack and Jill Foundation for seriously ill children.

CEO Jonathan Irwin has described the meeting with Dr Reilly as "pointless" and when the Dail Divisional bell rang, 12 minutes into the conversation, the minister "left to vote, never to be seen again".



Action

The Foundation now plans to take a class action in Brussels against the Government over the lack of a national paediatric home care budget.

At yesterday's meeting they were approaching the minister with a proposal, which, they say, could save the Government €2m or more a year, but they had no success.

The Jack and Jill Foundation nurses babies in their homes from 0-4 years at a cost of €16,500 a year compared to in-patient hospital costs of €147,000 a year paid by the HSE.

The Foundation wants to extend home care for a further two years for babies up to the age of six and were asking the Government to increase its contribution to them from €500,000 a year to €1m to help this happen.

They argue that the Government in turn would save substantially on the in-patient costs of looking after those babies.

Mr Irwin said Dr Reilly had told them he was "between a rock and a hard place and the troika. He never for one moment debated or asked us [anything]."

When the Divisional bell rang "he had to go and vote and we were left with three civil servants and we got nowhere.

"We thought he was going to come back."

Mr Irwin explains that the Foundation looks after 300 babies up to the age of four after which the Government is meant to look after their care.

"Out of those babies who reach four, a third would be so fragile that they would have to go into hospital where they cost a fortune."

The Foundation was suggesting to the minister that for a trial period of 12 months the Foundation would continue its hours for babies to the age of six.

The scheme could be externally monitored to show it could save €1m, €2m or more for the State.

"At the moment they give us €500,000 per year. I have to raise €3m (through donations). To look after children for another two years I would need €4m per year. We were asking them to up their investment by another €500,000 to bring it to €1m."



Motion

The meeting with the minister had been arranged through Mr Irwin's wife -- Senator Mary Ann O'Brien -- who had put down a Seanad motion to ask why Ireland was almost unique across Europe with no national paediatric home care nursing budget.

csheehy@herald.ie


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