Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Health Senator Marc Mac Sharry has said the Minister for Health James Reilly has serious questions to answer about a week-long trip he has undertaken to China.  Senator Mac Sharry has said: “What’s in this trip for Ireland? There are no medical, HSE or Departmental experts on this trip.”

“Irish hospitals are facing budget crises, bed closures and serious overcrowding.  We must ask the question, where is the added value for the Irish health service in this trip?

“Minister Reilly is meeting officials at a major Children’s Hospital while in China as well as representatives of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.  Is this a trade mission or an assessment of what expertise can be shared between Ireland and China?  The purpose is not clear.”

“Hospitals in Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Dublin and many across the country are facing very difficult situations and frontline workers have expressed serious concerns about patient safety.  This requires a hands-on response from the Minister and he’s not here.

“There is no question that Ministerial travel is necessary in Government but at a time when people are facing very difficult situations in their personal finances Ministers must ensure trips are kept to a minimum and costs are controlled.  I am concerned that this trip will actually cost more than the reported €10,000.

Senator Mac Sharry concluded: “I will be seeking to question the Minister in the Seanad when it resumes to explain what Ireland is getting out of this and what added value there is to the Irish health service by this trip.”