I welcome the opportunity to speak on this serious issue, which has highlighted the interference of the Minister for Health in the delivery of health care in the country. We all accept that a Minister should take a hands-on approach in the delivery of health care, but this was a deeply cynical political exercise. There are no two ways of explaining the issue. The fact is that the Minister for Health sacked the HSE board on taking office in April 2011. A short time afterwards, representations were made to the board on the delivery of the hospital in Wexford and St. Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny. We all accept that people make representations on a continual basis to the Government for the delivery of health care, but on this occasion the Minister interfered with the independence of the HSE to expedite a capital project in Wexford and another capital project in Kilkenny. The HSE had an interim board appointed. The board acts independently, but it was completely unaware of the decision of the Minister to bring the hospitals in Wexford and Kilkenny to the top of the list.
I do not begrudge the people of Wexford or Kilkenny their hospital facilities. The difficulty I have is that on every other occasion when the Minister was rowing back on promises he made previously, he blamed someone else or the independence of the HSE and suggested that a given hospital had to be closed or downgraded because either the HSE or HIQA had directed it. However, on this occasion the Minister had no difficulty acting for two Cabinet colleagues and interfering in the capital projects. This is taxpayers' money. It is not a slush fund to be used by the Minister or his Cabinet colleagues in advancing themselves in their constituencies. We saw another deeply cynical exercise previously with the primary care centres. Unfortunately, the Minister has form in this regard.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform had a role and has questions to answer in this case because he signed off on the original primary care list. I want to know whether there was a quid pro quo involving his scratching the back of the Minister for Health and vice versa in terms of looking after constituency needs above the Minister's responsibility to all people in the country in the provision of health care.