EMBATTLED health minister James Reilly was under increasing pressure today to explain why he ordered millions of euro in funding for 'non-priority' hospital projects in his Cabinet colleagues' constituencies.
Dr Reilly appeared to have ordered Wexford General Hospital should jump the queue for upgrade developments, despite the hospital not being a priority in the HSE's national Capital Plan.
The hospital is in the constituency of Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin. Minister Howlin increased the capital budget for the work.
Dr Reilly said previously the upgrading decision was taken by the HSE. But the publication of documents by RTE did not back up this version. He has now conceded that development work at hospitals in Wexford and Kilkenny was given the go-ahead because he told the HSE "to expedite" it.
Internal HSE letters have revealed the upgrades to Wexford's emergency department were "not a priority."
Freedom of Information documents accessed by RTE show Dr Reilly wanted developments at Wexford "accelerated" along with work at the A&E at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny – in Environment Minister Phil Hogan's constituency.
A spokesman for Mr Howlin's department said: "The proposed extension to Wexford General Hospital features in the HSE Regional Service Plan for 2011 and preceding years.
"Planning permission for the project was lodged by the HSE in 2010 and granted by Wexford Borough Council in 2011."