Anti co-location campaigner Christine O’Malley to fight on

AN anti co-location campaigner whose protests against the Beacon Medical Group have led to the firm laying staff off last night vowed to continue her fight.
Consultant geriatrician Dr Christine O’Malley, former head of the Irish Medical Organisation, has been involved in helping direct a series of legal challenges to Beacon’s planning applications to build their private hospitals in Limerick and Cork.
The troubled group’s failure to get permission to build is costing the company dear in legal and consultancy fees on top of the estimated €850m it has to raise to fund its plans.
On Friday, the group – which, in 2006, owed €142m to banks, and a further €3.4m other creditors, including the Revenue Commissioner – announced six redundancies and pay reviews for senior staff.
The decision comes just a few weeks after the Irish Mail on Sunday revealed that the Beacon Medical Group is in danger of being struck off for failing to file accounts on time.
If Dr O’Malley’s efforts – and those of her partner Tom O’Donoghue – had backfired, they would both have been faced with legal bills of more than €150,000.
O’Donoghue, for example, had appealed An Bord Pleanala’s decision to grant planning permission to Beacon’s Limerick planning application all the way to the High Court for a judicial review.
He won, now the application is back to square one and Dr O’Malley is vowing to take that application all the way to judicial review if needs be.
Last night, Dr O’Malley said: ‘I fully intend carrying on with my opposition to whatever planning permission they apply for.
‘If it costs the company ever more money, then so be it.’
She added: ‘Private hospitals do not treat really sick people. They deal with the walking wounded and worried well, and planned operations, not emergencies.
‘And few, if any, actually have doctors on call throughout the night on a regular basis.
‘Mary Harney at the Department of Health seems convinced that private hospitals will take up the slack and end up treating all comers.
‘That just isn’t going to happen.
‘Objecting to Beacon’s planning applications is just my way of throwing sands in the wheels of something I am very opposed to.’
The Beacon Medical Group group, faces being banned from operating if overdue accounts are not filed. They were due last May.
BMG is the most important player in the Government’s controversial co-location initiative and awarded HSE contracts to build private hospitals on State-owned land at Dublin’s Beaumont, Cork and Limerick.
Car dealer Michael Cullen is chief executive of the company, which is co-owned by property developer Paddy Shovlin.
A spokesman for the Beacon Medical Group said recently the group was in a sound financial position.
‘We are not struggling financially. We have a number of profitable companies,’ said Pauline Cullen who handles communications for the group.
‘We are a very small project team and we are doing an awful lot. We possibly do too much for the size that we are.’
Miss Cullen said the fact that a helicopter owned by BMG directors had been mortgaged to Bank of Scotland in April was not related to any company financing efforts. With bank debts of E150m registered in 2006, the firm
took out two new mortgages with Ulster Bank this February.
In a statement to the IMoS recently , a spokesman said the company had engaged in ‘productive discussions with a number of banks’ and was confident of raising the required finance for the co-location projects.
Last night, the online edition of the Companies Registration Office carried no record of up-to-date accounts received.