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Mileage row shows it's one rule for ministers, another for nurses

If you are a Government minister, clocking up miles is not a problem for you. If however you are a community nurse tending to elderly and those who are chronically ill then miles could be a big problem.

You see this Government has no limits for its Cabinet members but it does for these overworked angels.

Let's look at the community nurse. They don't travel in Government jets. I spoke with the family of one nurse who I cannot name because they could lose their job.

However they did tell me about their work. They perform an invaluable medical and social role travelling all around their district tending to the elderly and infirm. People with bed sores who need changing, people who have no-one to administer basic essential treatments each day.

Well now this community nurse has been told there will be a limit on the amount of miles they can clock up

Why? Cutbacks. And what do they do when a worried relative or indeed a chronically ill person rings to say they need help? 'Sorry but I'll be over my mileage quota, I'm not allowed.'

Is this how you would want your family treated?

And worse, as the nurse explained to me, is the sheer madness of it. The whole thrust behind community nursing is keeping people out of hospitals.

Chronically ill and elderly patients, many of whom would prefer to be at home, take up beds in our overcrowded hospitals. If the district nurse can see them at home, it frees up beds. So whoever is responsible for limiting the nurses just to cut a budget is actually creating greater costs in the longer run.



expenses

If we were talking about a minister tearing up and down the country to open a local off-licence you'd say 'yes there must be limits on the number of miles they can travel'.

But there aren't for those lads. So if your relative happens to need the community nurse, you best pray they haven't run over their mileage.

If you are a Government minister, there is no problem with mileage.

They are just four months in office and they have run up €70,000 in mileage expenses in their private cars.

Dr James Reilly, who oversees those who would clamp community nurses' mileage, has claimed €5,238 for the two months from May to July, it was reported in the Sunday Times.

Over a year this could add up to €31,000.

The Government also pays salaries for two garda drivers for each minister. It is true that ministers such Dr Reilly have cut back on State cars but they are not faced with a mileage problem.

To add insult to the community nurses, the Government jets are still running up the mileage. I thought they were going to be decommissioned along with arms dumps but no. The jets are well and truly back in business.

Gulfstream IV was meant to be taken out of commission. However since January just under €140,000 has been spent on it. The money was for maintenance and spares.

Since March, ministers ran up the air miles on 20 separate trips. No mileage problem there.

The Government has a second airplane for short journeys. They have spent €120,000 on keeping the Learjet in good nick. Couple this with the fact that Enda Kenny has broken Government pay guidelines for his team of special advisers and five personal assistants and it gets you thinking. One law for you, one for me.

One rule for ministers, one for the Community nurses.

The Government has made sure the jets are kept well and maintained. Just a pity that we cannot maintain and care for the elderly and the sick.

hnews@herald.ie