Donegal Fianna Fáil Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has called on the Health Minister James Reilly to explain how he can justify a HSE taxi bill of over €28 million last year, while axing a bus for Donegal patients that cost less than €100,000.
In reply to questions from Fianna Fáil, the HSE confirmed a 10% increase in taxi costs in 2011. The bill for staff taxis alone was €357,334 while taxis for patients cost over €27.6 million.
Senator Ó Domhnaill has said he is appalled at the exorbitant figure.
“This is yet another example of warped policies from this Government,” said Senator Ó Domhnaill. “How can the Health Minister justify multi-million euro taxi bills at a time when frontline services for patients in Donegal are being cut right, left and centre?
“Just last week, Minister Reilly axed the bus service that has been taking Donegal patients to Dublin hospitals for more than three decades. This cost less than €100,000 a year and provided an invaluable service to patients who need specialised treatment in Dublin. Now instead transporting patients together by bus, the HSE faces forking out even more for taxis. It makes absolutely no sense.”
The Fianna Fail politician said patients in Donegal have already suffered as a result of severe cutbacks this year.
“The Health Minister has embarked on a slash and burn of community hospitals beds; he is closing hospital wards; he is scaling backing community hospital services and disability services. Once again Donegal has been hit with a disproportionate level of these cutbacks. Patients here will be furious to learn that all of this is happening while the HSE is riddled with wasted spending.
“It is time for the Government to get its own house in order and eliminate wastage within the HSE instead of continually turning to patients first and expecting them to bear the brunt of savage cuts.”