The HSE is yet again under scrutiny as they are urged to clarify if more hospitals have used EU food aid money earmarked for impoverished members of society.
This latest incident follows a report that Cork’s Mercy University Hospital applied for the free food earmarked for societies less fortunate from 2010 to 2013, and used it to feed patients.
It is understood that Cork’s Mercy Hospital had used the food to feed patients who were staying in private rooms and paying up to €1,000 a night, as well as fee-paying public patients.
Although the report stated that the hospital did pay back the money it had received to the Department of Agriculture last week.
The food wich is believed to be – cheese, rice and butter – was part of a €500m EU scheme to alleviate deprivation among the worst-off in society.
Its been announced recently that the free food programme had been discontinued in favour of a new scheme. The scheme was administered in Ireland by the Department of Agriculture.
Charities including St Vincent de Paul and Barnardos are among those that have shared in the €2.5m in foodstuffs allocated annually to Ireland under the scheme.
A spokesperson for Mercy University Hospital has stated that, since Cork Mercy was a city centre hospital treating mostly public patients, there was a belief historically that the hospital complied with the terms and the conditions of the scheme.
However, the hospital said it was now aware that it did not satisfy the scheme’s criteria, and that while the earlier decision to participate was made in good faith, it had ceased all participation in the scheme.
Stephen McMahon, of the Irish Patients’ Association, has said the HSE should clarify their position in relation to this matter. He also urged the HSE to make a statement.
Mr McMahon also said he would also be interested to know what the Department of Agriculture did with the refunded money.
Mr McMahon also pointed out that there are many charities in the Munster region dealing with people in financial need who would welcome such help.
It is understood that Private patients through their insurance companies would pay a total of €933 a night for a private room in the Mercy University Hospital.
Although the hospital paid back the money concerned last Thursday, according to numerous sources.
Under the rules of the scheme, the hospital was obliged to return records to show how it distributed any food aid it received.
The hospital’s record books for orders between 2010 and 2013 showed that the recipients of the food were “365 patients per day”.
Some 30pc of the hospital’s patients are private, which would mean that 109 private fee-paying patients were fed with the EU food each day that the supplies were used.
It is believed the free food was used to make everything from cheese sauce to garlic butter for chicken Kievs, mince pies, scones, risotto, cheese and onion cakes and chicken wraps.