Laois TD and Minister Charlie Flanagan says figures released showing over 5,000 visits by prisoners to hospital, prove that a ‘round the clock’ medical service is essential.
“There were 4,255 visits from the Midlands Prison inmates to hospital, and 1,075 from Portlaoise Prison, over the past three years. Having considered the figures, I am satisfied that there is a real need to ensure there is a general medical service in close proximity to the prisons, and it is important that it is around the clock. The medical care and attention provided at Portlaoise hospital is essential,” the Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Leinster Express.
The Fine Gael minister said the HSE had “understated” the prisons’ use of the hospital to him.
“I am not happy with the information given to me by the HSE. They have been understating the importance of the hospital to the prison,” he said.
Last Monday January 9, he accompanied the Minister for health Simon Harris on a visit to Portlaoise hospital, and a meeting afterwards he had with councillors and the two other Laois TDs Brian Stanley and Sean Fleming.
The Fine Gael Minister met with the Minister for Health Simon Harris again the next day he said, as well as Minister for Justice and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
He raised concerns about the numbers, and potential problems if prisoners have to be brought further afield for treatment.
“I have expressed concern to the Minister for Justice at the high cost of prison escorts, in the event of Portlaoise hospital not continuing to provide a service. I have sought details of figures regarding prison escorts and added costs, should patients be taken to alternate locations,” Minister Flanagan said.
He is also concerned about added security risks of bringing prisoners up to Dublin hospitals for treatment.
“I have spoken to Frances Fitzgerald about the serious risks involved.