Howlin: Hospital upgrade was in train since 2008

Brendan Howlin expressed surprise at what had been reported on RTÉ's This Week programme

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has produced documents that he says demonstrate that the upgrading of Wexford General Hospital had been in train since 2008.

He said a letter from the HSE's National Director of Estates in September 2008 said design and tendering for the hospital upgrade were expected to be completed in 12 months from the date of the letter, and for construction to commence in early 2010.

Mr Howlin made the comments on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny.

He said that a subsequent letter sent in 2009 and signed by the then chief executive of the HSE, Professor Brendan Drumm, confirmed the project was on the HSE Capital Programme.

The minister expressed surprise at what had been reported on RTÉ's This Week programme.

He said he was amazed at suggestions the project was at an early design stage, when it had in fact secured full planning permission and was in the capital programme to be completed.

The minister said that all of this was well documented in the local media, and he said the HSE had been present when he had made the announcement.

"I made the announcement in Wexford at a routine opening of a cat scan in Wexford, with a script vetted and the detail provided by the HSE, with the regional director of the HSE who was in the photograph," he said.

Mr Howlin was surprised that politicians, who had expressed disappointment when it appeared the planned upgrading of the hospital was delayed, were now angered at the fact that the upgrade was going ahead.

"Shortly after coming into office we had a meeting, with the Minister for Health, all the Wexford TDs, plus all the HSE people and it was there that we were told that despite it being in the plan, despite it being promised, despite it being prioritised, despite it having full planning permission, there was no money for it," he said.

"The perversity is that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin locally wanted an inquiry into where the money had gone, why on the change of Government the money had disappeared.

"Sinn Féin tabled a motion to Wexford Borough Council and the same people now want an inquiry into why the money is back," he added.

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