FAMILY doctors who moved their practices to a new medical centre two years ago have been forced to abandon it because of a planning technicality.
Three of the five GP practices that currently occupy the second floor of the Killarney Primary Care Centre in Co Kerry have until Friday to vacate the Reeks Gateway because of a ruling by An Bord Pleanala.
The centre was one of two backed by the Prime Healthcare Group, which went into receivership last February. The company was also behind a similar venture at the Shamrock Plaza in Carlow.
A total of 15 doctors have been based at the Killarney medical centre for the past two years, moving from their own premises to the new facility on the town's perimeter.
The €25m development at the Tralee Road roundabout was originally built for office and commercial use.
The decision by the majority of the town's doctors to relocate there created opposition locally, mainly from pharmacists who feared the impact the new medical centre would have on their businesses.
Last year, An Bord Pleanala ruled that operating the medical centre required planning permission to change the use.
The developers, Sunday's Well Properties Ltd, and the doctors involved then applied to Killarney Town Council for permission to retain the change of use to a medical centre, which was granted.
However, an appeal was then lodged with An Bord Pleanala, and permission was refused to change the use of the second floor of the building for medical use, stating that granting the permission for the total floor area, including the second floor, would have a "negative impact on the vitality and viability" of the existing town centre.
A spokesman for the GPs said three of the doctors were previously based outside the town centre so that decision didn't make sense.
Dr Gary Stack said the decision by An Bord Pleanala had set back primary care in the Co Kerry town for at least a generation.
There had been plans to locate radiology, X-ray, ultra-sound and bone-density scanning services on the same campus, as well as medical suites for other healthcare professionals such as paramedics, physiotherapists, chiropodists, psychologists and visiting consultants.
"This is not now going to happen so it's a huge loss to the patients," Dr Stack added.