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Coveney says there was 'no trickery' involved in Waterford General Hospital negotiations

The independent TD has been ramping up the pressure for extra hospital services for Waterford today.

Updated 10.51pm

5/7/2016 Independent TD John Halligan John Halligan Source: RollingNews.ie

MINISTER SIMON COVENEY has said there was “no trickery involved” in programme for government negotiations in relation to Waterford General Hospital.

His comments came after Junior Health Minister John Halligan accused Coveney’s party of breaking their promise to him.

The Independent Alliance member has threatened to leave the minority government if a second cath lab is not set up at University Hospital Waterford (a catheterisation lab specialises in examining the heart).

Halligan requested that the unit be added during government formation talks earlier this year, claiming that the hospital was severely under-resourced.

Fine Gael agreed to an independent review of the hospital the finalised report has not favoured Halligan’s campaign for a new unit.

Instead, it has recommended investment in the existing lab to fund additional staff and equipment, which will enable it to provide an additional eight hours per week of procedures.

Health Minister Simon Harris said today that he will have a further independent review carried out in early 2017.

Broken promises

Speaking to WLRFM, Halligan said that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister Coveney had given him assurances during government talks that the review of services at the hospital was just “a formality”.

The independent TD said:

Simon Coveney told me during government talks, ‘If you don’t sign up, we’ll deliver the second cath lab for Waterford anyway’.
I signed up to the Programme for Government based on what the government told me. They’re now breaking that commitment.

He also told RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke that Fine Gael had “broken their promise on this”.

Coveney, however, disputes this claim, telling reporters in Dublin this afternoon that the government committed in the programme for government to investing in Waterford General Hospital – and that is what they plan to do now.

The commitment, he said, was to developing a second lab only if it was recommended by an independent review.

We will look at a further review next year to build on that but you cannot and you should not be making investment decisions on healthcare that involve clinical treatment for people on the basis of politics.

He said he knew Halligan was “under some pressure in Waterford” but denied there had been any “trickery” involved in the negotiations.

Coveney also said he hoped the Independent Alliance TD, who he described as a “good person” would remain in government and help them to implement the recommendations in the review.

‘Flawed’

Halligan earlier told WRLFM  he had an issue with the terms of reference used for an independent review of the hospital’s cardiac services, stating that he believed they were not the ones agreed upon during talks.

“The terms of reference are flawed,” said the TD.

My personal view is that there’s been interference from other hospitals.

Tonight, RTÉ’s Prime Time revealed details of a briefing note released to Halligan under Freedom of Information in which the HSE told the review’s author that it would be “wasteful” to extend services at the hospital.

The note, prepared by the HSE’s acute hospital policy unit, referred to the “growing public and political pressure in the Waterford region” and was sent shortly after Dr Niall Herity was commissioned to carry out the review.

Halligan has described this note as “a gross interference” with the independent review.

‘Serious trouble’ 

Halligan said if there was no second review, with a different set of terms of reference, “we’re in serious trouble”.

Despite soundings that his colleagues in the Independent Alliance are fed up of ongoing crises involving Halligan, he said they had been very supportive.

He described Shane Ross, now the Transport Minister, as a good friend who advised him to “stay in and fight” for better services for Waterford.

Halligan, already well-known for his forthright way of expressing his opinions, previously told TheJournal.ie that he “never thought I’d be part of a government”.

“[I was] not sure I wanted to be part of a government, but as it transpired, that is what happened in the negotiations,” he said.

Additional reporting Christina Finn, Daragh Brophy and Michelle Hennessy.

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