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Five Hospital Groups and nine voluntary hospitals spent €799,342 on the services of PR firms last year, according to figures released administratively and through Freedom of Information law.
The figures show five Hospital Groups spent €390,639 on PR companies, while nine voluntary hospitals within various Groups separately spent €408,703.
Of seven Hospital Groups, only RCSI Hospitals and University of Limerick Hospitals did not spend money on PR firms in 2018. The highest spender was South/South West Hospital Group, which paid €120,685 to Heneghan PR. One of its hospitals, Mercy University Hospital, Cork, has a contract with Mills Public Relations worth €24,600 per annum. This type of overlapping expenditure was a feature in three other Hospital Groups. Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, was the highest-spending voluntary hospital, paying €81,180 to Drury Porter Novelli in 2018.
Over 20 staff within Hospital Groups and voluntary hospitals have some form of communications remit (which may be only part of their duties and comprises more than media relations). There are also press/communications units in the Department of Health and HSE.
Mr Paul Connors, HSE National Director of Communications, said the expenditure by Hospital Groups on PR firms was declining. He said Hospital Groups had been encouraged to develop an in-house resource.
According to previous data supplied to the Medical Independent, Hospital Group expenditure on PR firms in 2015 was over €340,000, which is lower than in 2018. However, Saolta, Ireland East Hospital Group and Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which all spent money on PR firms last year, have since ceased these contracts. Mr Connors said he is not privy to all advice and direction given by PR companies to Hospital Groups, but felt the PR firms have been providing “a good service”.