AMERICAN dollars are available to finance the proposed 92-bed private hospital on Limerick’s Dock Road, at no cost to the Irish taxpayer or to private health insurance companies, Mayor Kevin Sheahan claimed this week.
But he rejected as an “untruth” a claim by a spokesman for health insurers VHI that there was an adequate supply of private beds in the Limerick/Mid-West area.
Mayor Sheahan’s comments came as part of a debate at Monday’s meeting of Limerick City and County Council when he proposed that the council would support the call to have VHI give its full support for what he called “a private community hospital” which would turn nobody away.
“It is a gift to the people of Limerick,” he said.
Everything was ready to go, he argued. The planning permission was in place, twice, for a 92-bed hospital with six operating theatres; flood risk had been carried out; an operator who runs hospitals throughout the world was in place and the money to build the hospital was available.
Yet because of a “new” condition by the VHI, the councillor argued, the region was being denied what Dublin, Cork and Galway had.
According to the Askeaton-based councillor, the VHI had stipulated an existing private bed in the region would have to be closed for every new one in the new hospital before it would sign up.”
But Cllr Joe Leddin (Lab) felt the VHI should be given their chance to explain what the problem was and Sinn Fein’s Cllr Seighin O’Ceallaigh agreed.
“This is a dispute between VHI and Limerick Private Hospital,” he said. “I think while we are discussing this dispute it is only one side of the argument.”
Meanwhile, he added: “We need to re-open St John’s more than we need a 36-bed private hospital. The trolley situation is appalling but that is not what this motion is about. We need to focus on the health system, not a squabble.”
“I disagree that the solution to the problems in the health system is more private hospitals,” Cllr Cian Prendiville (AAA) argued.
But Cllr Richard O’Donoghue (FF) came out in favour, “if this project can alleviate problems”.
“For the VHI, who have been in the past a state-subsidised organisation, to turn around and say there isn’t a demand for a private hospital in Limerick is simply not true,” Cllr James Collins (FF) said. “There is a demand for more beds.”
“This is another attempt to push the two-tier system,” Cllr John Gilligan declared. And he argued it would not help the situation regarding people on trolleys at Limerick University Hospital.
“The trolleys are there because we closed the A&E in Ennis and Nenagh and they lied to us.”
When the motion was put to the floor, the vote was 15 in favour, five against while Sinn Fein abstained.