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HSE under fire over €2,500 Christmas tree

THE HSE has come under fire for its decision to spend in the region of €2,500 on the Christmas tree outside the acute hospital in Dooradoyle, Limerick.

Councillor Ann Norton highlighted a claim that €2,500 was spent purchasing a massive Christmas tree for University Hospital (UHL). Describing the expenditure as a “waste of money”, Councillor Norton claimed it should be possible to purchase a good Christmas tree for €200.

She stated that this money could be put to much better use in hiring nurses to try and reduce the long waiting times for people on trolleys in UHL.

While acknowledging that it is important to create Christmas spirit, she said patients would prefer to see a smaller Christmas tree but better care, when they had to attend the emergency department.

“I am not against the principle of putting up a Christmas tree but it is important that the HSE gets its priorities right. Which is more important, spending money on a very large Christmas tree or hiring extra staff to provide proper care in the UHL emergency department?”
Another hospital source told The Clare Champion that the Christmas tree is so big that a space of between six to eight feet had to be dug to place the tree in a prominent position outside the hospital.

Meanwhile, concern has been expressed about the alarming deterioration in the UHL emergency department in recent months. According to official figures, there were 484 patients on trolleys in October 2014, compared to 244 in October 2013.

In September 2014, UHL had 551 patients on trolleys, compared to 345 patients in September 2013.

Responding to the criticism, a UHL group spokeswoman outlined that UL Hospitals put up a Christmas tree at UHL every year.

“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, including visits by Santa to the Children’s Ark and a carol service by the UHL staff choir,” said the spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on the cost of the tree.

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Austin Hobbs

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