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Brendan Howlin and Phil Hogan seen in January 2012 at the launch of the government's Green Public Procurement Action Plan. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Documents show ministers announced hospital works before HSE Board knew

The opposition lashes out as RTÉ’s This Week obtains documents showing upgrades in Kilkenny and Wexford were fast-tracked.

Updated, 16:20

SINN FÉIN has launched a stinging criticism of government ministers after it emerged that health minister James Reilly fast-tracked upgrades to hospitals in the home towns of two of his cabinet colleagues.

Documents obtained by RTÉ’s This Week programme indicated that upgrades to St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny – the home town of environment minister Phil Hogan – and to Wexford General Hospital, in the home town of public expenditure minister Brendan Howlin – were ‘accelerated’.

RTÉ said the documents showed that the two ministers concerned had announced the new works on their local hospitals – in the first week of June 2011 – before the board of the HSE were even aware of the proposals to fast-track them.

Later exchanges between the HSE and the Department of Health showed the agency would need an extra €34 million to complete the works.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform – run by Howlin – allocated an extra €12 million for the works in Wexford, while the works St Luke’s would be funded by “efficiencies” in other hospital budgets.

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the developments outlined in the documents were “damning in the extreme”.

“Clearly this Fine Gael-Labour government is copying Fianna Fáil with cabinet cronyism ensuring the fast-tracking of favoured projects in the constituencies of ministers,” he said in a statement.

Is it now the case that the fate of hospitals will be determined by the presence or absence of cabinet ministers in the constituencies where hospitals happen to be located?

Ó Caoláin said he would be demanding accountability from the three ministers concerned when the Dáil reconvened on Tuesday.

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher called on Reily to immediately clarify the chain of events after the ‘disturbing’ revelations.

“People need to know on what basis these projects were chosen for investment, while services are being slashed at other hospitals across the country,” he said.

“We also need to know how Ministers Hogan and Howlin were in a position to announce these projects before the board of the HSE even knew.”

Read: More on the documents obtained by RTÉ’s This Week >

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