PRIMARY Care Centres for Swords and Balbriggan are likely to progress on ' their own merits' separate to and ahead of the eventual 20 short-listed sites for similar centres around the country that will be funded by the Government's 'stimulus' package, the Fingal Independent can exclusively reveal.
A huge political and media storm has blown up in the last week around the long-promised primary care centres which have been on the drawing boards of the last two Governments. It was Minister James Reilly's decision to include both projects on a list of 35 sites vying for 20 priority locations for primary care centres that brought the planned centres to national attention in the last week. But the Fingal Independent has learned that the centres in Swords and Balbriggan are at such an advanced stage that they are likely to proceed more quickly and under a completely different model than the 20 sites that will be chosen as part of the stimulus package. Those 20 developments will be HSE led and will involve the HSE identifying an area of need and then asking developers and health professionals to tender for the project in that area. As with all tendering processes, that is likely to take some time but the Swords and Balbriggan sites are ready to progress more quickly. Sources close to the Minister for Health, James Reilly, have said that the two Fingal primary care centres will be progressed via a 'direct lease' arrangement between their developers or 'proposers' and the HSE. Under this arrangement, it is the private sector that makes the approach to the HSE and not the other way around. A proposer puts a package together that includes a site or building and the agreement of local GPs to participate and the HSE then becomes a tenant of the building through a 'direct lease' arrangement. Both projects are at an advanced stage and can be realised by this faster process, the Fingal Independent understands. The Balbriggan project in particular is ready to go. There is a building secured, the agreement of GPs is in place and there is a developer behind the project who is likely to apply for planning permission for the project soon, perhaps as early as October. In the case of Swords, it is understood there is a potential site for the project has been identified which will not be the site that Minister Reilly is connected with at Airside but another site close by and negotiations with GPs who may participate in the project are understood to be at an advanced stage.