Independent University Senator Rónán Mullen has expressed disappointment and frustration at the revelation that the Saolta Hospital Group (including Galway University Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital ) spent €169,444.80 hiring the PR consultancy firm Setanta communications.
Commenting on figures he obtained from the Department of Health after raising the matter in the Seanad, Senator Mullen said that the use of external PR consultants by a public health authority is ‘bizarre.’
“I have yet to receive a satisfactory response from the HSE as to why a group of hospitals needs a press operation. The money spent on spin doctors would have better spent on real doctors and life-saving equipment for Galway hospitals.”
The Senator raised the lack of vital treatments for newborn infants in Galway’s hospitals:
“Galway currently lacks facilities providing therapeutic hypothermia for infants. This treatment known as 'baby cooling' is recognised and used internationally when a baby is born with a lack of oxygen reaching the brain. Baby cooling is a life saving treatment which can reduce the risk of permanent diseases such as cerebral palsy by up to 50 per cent.
He continued: “If a baby is born in Galway or Portiuncula hospitals suffering from oxygen starvation, the vulnerable child must be rushed to Dublin by emergency ambulance. The lack of baby cooling west of the Shannon is one of the issues linked to ongoing investigations of maternity services in Portiuncula.”
“The shocking fact is that for the €170,000 spent on PR consultants, Galway could have been given two neonatologists and four baby cooling stations.
“At the same time as the HSE is investigating the safety of maternity services in the West, it is spending taxpayers' money on spin doctors rather than on real doctors and equipment to help vulnerable newborn children."