McGrath to query minister on nursing home inspections

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

A South Tipperary TD is to raise questions in the Dail this week over the low number of state inspections the Carrick-on-Suir nursing home part owned by Health Minister Dr James Reilly has undergone over the past three years.

Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath is to ask for an explanation as to why the Suirmount Nursing Home in Carrick-on-Suir, which closed earlier this year, was inspected five times between April 2010 and November 2011 while the Greenhills Nursing Home that Minister Reilly co-owns has been inspected only twice since 2009.

Suirmount closed in March with the loss of 40 jobs after its owner was unable to finance upgrading works required by the Health Information and Quality Authority.

Deputy McGrath claimed that there appeared to be a clear conflict of interest, where HIQA, an agency of the HSE, forced the closure of this nursing home after visiting it five times beween April 2010 and November 2011.

But in the same period HIQA did not visit Greenhills Nursing Home once.

“In fact, according to HIQA’s website, there has only been two inspections carried out at Greenhills Nursing Home since 2009, namely November 2009 and February 2012, he said.

“It strikes me as odd that HIQA officials would visit one facility in a town five times in a 19 months period and would only visit the facility part-owned by the Minister for Health in the same town twice in 27 month periold.

“I believe that further questions need to be answered in relation to the Minister’s involvement in this nursing home and why it appears to be getting preferential treatment,” he said.

Meanwhile, his constituency colleague Deputy Seamus Healy said it was inappropriate that Minister Reilly should continue as Minister for Health and in view of his part ownership of the private nursing home.

“Neither I nor anybody else has alleged that the Minister is using public policy for his own benefit. However, no minister should be in the position that his role as owner of private facilities or assets could put himself in a position to benefit from government decisions, however, inadvertently or unintentionally,” said the Independent TD, who leads South Tipperary’s left wing Workers & Unemployment Action Group.

Dr Reilly has undergone intense political and media scrutiny over his part ownership of the Greenhills Nursing Home over the past week since he and several other investors were named in Stubbs Gazette over a €1.9m debt in the Greenhills investment

He came under fire for having an alleged conflict of interest for being an investor in private care while running the Department of Health. He made a Dail statement to set the record straight, pointing out that his 9% stake was in the Tipperary nursing home only and he had no role in its day-to-day operations as it was leased to an independent operator.

Fianna Fail cast doubt on this claims of non-involvement in the nursing home by revealing he intervened in an industrial dispute there in 2002. But a spokesman for the Minister said this happened before Dr Reilly entered politics. He was senior figure in the Irish Medical Organisation at the time and contacted the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation over the dispute.