Health Board under fire over €15m surplus
The Western Health Board yesterday (Monday) confirmed the weekend’s media reports that it has a budget surplus of €15m. But the Board (WHB) said the surplus relates to the years 2002 and 2003 rather than one single year. It is one of three Boards that Department officials intend to question in relation to having surplus budgets in a year of cut-backs. It is understood that the Minister for Health is concerned that surpluses could be linked to hospital bed closures and cut-backs in certain services. Revelations of the surplus or "contingency funds" have led to calls from the Labour party for an independent inquiry into Health Board’s spending records and renewed criticisms of the plans to remove political representatives from the healthcare system. And Minister for Health, Mr Micheál Martin, has himself come under fire for putting pressure on the Boards to keep within their budget. But the WHB has defended its position with the following statement: "The 1996 Health Amendment Act obliges Health Boards to balance the budget each year. Our budget exceeds €800m and in the interest of prudent management we top slice about 1%-2% at the start of the year as a contingency for unforeseen services or cost pressures e.g. insurance costs, drugs refund scheme or nursing home subventions. Provision must also be made for other unpredictable events such as outbreak of winter vomiting disease.
The defence sounds reasonable but, like I mentioned last week, we see contingency items including large expenses for the legal costs of fighting that failed court case against Castlebar Parish, for example. I reckon we might be better to spend the money on opening wards and getting people off those trolleys. Whatever about unpredictable events what about deaths of people that are highly predictable but avoidable at the same time? The delayed roll out of the cancer screening service which was claimed would lead to over 460 women dying in the WHB region per annum is one such service that could do with an injection of few million euro from the 15 M surplus.
Gravel from trucks is ruining Castlebar roads
A motion to write to a Castlebar company advising them of overloading their trucks with gravel which was making the roads dangerous has been defeated at the local Town Council. At last week’s budget meeting, Cllr Michael Kilcoyne proposed the motion that the council write to Roadstone advising them some of the lorries coming from their depot were losing chippings on the local roads making them dangerous. He was seconded by Cllr Frank Durcan but following a vote Mayor, Cllr Aidan Crowley, Cllr Blackie Gavin, Cllr Brendan Heneghan, Cllr Pat King and Cllr Johnny Mee were all against the motion. Cllr Durcan raised the issue stating there was a lot of gravel on roundabouts and roads just outside the town. "It is highly dangerous and I feel this should be taken up with Roadstone. Stones are falling off the back of the trucks and nothing is being done." Cllr Kilcoyne said there had been several incidents on the road and the trucks were overloaded with gravel falling off. Cllr Gavin said the onus was on the councillors to get the numbers of the trucks and report it to the Gardai. Mr Patsy Burke, Senior Engineer said the only restriction that could be imposed was a weight one. The county council had installed scales at Moneen and it was up to the Gardai to impose the law. He added the council had a continuous rota for the road sweeper.
I know the stones they are talking about at Moneen especially where the lorries emerge fully laden and swishing stones all over the place. Particularly dangerous for cyclists or pedestrians subjected to gravel chips shooting out from beneath car tyres as they hit the loose stones in the middle of the road. From the account above it’s not quite clear why the council did not write the letter of complaint to Roadstone. If the only restriction is one of weight then it seems a bit lacking. What’s to stop them putting a health and safety restriction requiring them to keep their stones on board too? This is in the same territory as the apparent unwillingness to impose wheel-wash conditions on developers around the town. They seem to have carte blanche to spew mud from big tractor tyres all over the town. I don't understand why they are not required to install a proper wheel washing facility before they begin mucking around on any building site?
Calm before the storm
Mr Padraig Flynn was remaining tight-lipped yesterday as he and daughter Deputy Beverley Flynn again hit the headlines over the £50,000 he is alleged to have received from the property developer Tom Gilmartin. "As I told you before on many occasions I will honour the confidentiality clause imposed on me by the Planning Tribunal. In the course of time I will tell all that I have to tell, warts and all," said Mr Flynn. He hit out at the "leaking" of documents discovered to the Planning Tribunal and said the leaks were undermining the work of the tribunal. "Tribunal by media is wrong," he commented. The retired Minister and EU Commissioner is enjoying life as a "resurrected" artist and is hoping to stage an exhibition of his work in the near future. If "the Supreme chairman of the Supreme Tribunal" spares him he will hopefully live long enough to see his works exhibited in the Linenhall. "That would be a crowning achievement for me," he told the Western People last week. "To see my paintings exhibited in my own town would be just wonderful," he added. Fully occupied and busier in retirement than when he was involved in public life, Mr Flynn, at the insistence of his wife Dorothy, has returned to a passion that he indulged and was good at as a boy. He now has thirty of forty pieces of work that he hopes to exhibit. "Some of them I would not be happy with, but these things are in the eye of the beholder. "If Marie (Farrell) gets the go-ahead from her selection committee in the Linenhall, I would be happy to leave it to the public to judge."
Talk about diversion tactics! There is a very funny cartoon in the Sunday Business Post today. It's a throwback to the Scrap Saturday days in which a variety of Pee's alleged paintings are portrayed. I was wondering if Pee had read it before he attended 12:30 Mass in Castlebar Church this morning and if so how was his blood pressure.
But I hope to God his paintings are not shown in the Linenhall. By all means let him show them at the car boot sale or a special exhbition in the Welcome Inn or even at the ‘Starving Artists’ show that comes around once a year or so. By all means too let him enter one or two for acceptance in the regular Mayo Artists Show. But a full exhibition in the Linenhall?
Think of the signal this would send to the 'real' artists in the county and from around the country who exhibit in the Linenhall only after a rigorous and serious selection process. And even more what will it say to those artists who do not reach the standard required? Just because Pee has knocked off 30 canvasses since retiring he gets to exhibit?
So Linenhall Arts Centre Selection Committee, please don’t make a laughing stock of our wonderful Linenhall Arts Centre.