A DECISION by University Hospital Limerick to spend almost €4,000 on three Christmas trees has been branded as “not acceptable”.
Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan said the fact that the hospital had spent almost €3,000 on one tree alone was “a bit mad”.
And Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler, who was part of a group that met with health minister Leo Varadkar at the opening of the new critical care facility in UHL recently, agreed that it was not “a healthy use” of funds.
It was revealed last week, following a freedom of information request by journalist Gordon Deegan, that UHL paid Raheen based business Flowers Forever €2,976 - including VAT - for the tree, installed with lights, and the taking down of the tree. It also spent €350 with the same business for another 10ft tree and €250 for an 8ft tree.
In a statement, a UHL spokesperson said: “Every year, the UL Hospital Group puts up a Christmas tree at University Hospital Limerick. This forms part of the way that the hospital celebrates the festive season for patients, visitors and staff.
“Children from the Children’s Ark are invited to turn the lights on and really enjoy the occasion. A range of events are organised by different departments across the hospital to celebrate Christmas.”
Cllr Quinlivan said UHL, which had the some of the highest patients on trolley numbers in the country last week, was “in crisis”.
“Especially when the last constituent I dealt with was a 15 year old girl who slept on the floor, didn’t have a seat or a blanket, except for her mother and sister’s coats,” he said of UHL.
“I think spending €4,000 on Christmas trees sounds a bit mad, there are other things you could spend it on, we do need a proper waiting area for people who need to wait and I think having a 15 year old sleep on the floor because there is nowhere for her to go is shameful and unacceptable in this day and age.”
Cllr Butler said he would “express concern” about the spend on trees.
“There is probably other more important places that the money can be spent,” he said. “At the same time I do understand that a lot of people are spending Christmas in the hospital and if you can make that a nice environment for them to be in, that is important too. But there is a healthy balance to be struck - and I don’t think €3,000 on a tree is a healthy balance.
“At the end of the day, while that isn’t a healthy use of the money, it is only a drop in the ocean in the problems that A&E are facing,” added the Fine Gael councillor.