THE HSE has explained that it has been formally pursuing primary care centres in both Swords and Balbriggan since at least 2007, four years before Dr. James Reilly became the Minister for Health.
In correspondence with member of the Regional Health Forum for this area, Cllr May McKeon, the HSE answered a number of questions raised by media reports on the controversy over the last couple of weeks. Explaining when the decision was made to select Dublin Road as the site for a Balbriggan Primary Care centre, the HSE went back in time to December 2007.
It said: ' Newspaper advertisements were placed in December 2007 and June 2008 inviting submissions from parties interested in developing the sites as primary care centre locations. 'Submissions received for Balbriggan were assessed and technical dialogue meetings with qualifying parties were completed. 'A preferred provider was identified who satisfied the HSE key criteria and had offered acceptable accommodation, in development, at a suitable location in the town of Balbriggan at Stephenstown Business Park which is accessible to Dublin Street via pedestrian access off the public car park on Dublin Street.
'On October 2, 2008 HSE Board approval was received to progress a lease in Balbriggan via the operational lease mechanism. The board authorised progression of discussions for up to 21,500ft sq within an acceptable rate band. 'We are not in a position to disclose rates at this point as this remains commercially sensitive. The term of the lease arrangement would be 25 years.' It explained: ' A letter of intent was issued 3rd November 2008 to the preferred provider which contained a number of conditions which the preferred provider had to satisfy to allow agreement of a lease.' One of those conditions, to sign up the agreement of GPs, was not met by the preferred bidder who was then dropped by the HSE when it withdrew the letter of intent in November of 2010.
That started a new process and two new bidders emerged with Rhonnellen, the current developers attached to the project at 66-70 Dublin Street, expressing their interest in August of 2011. The HSE said: ' The final date for receipt of submissions which had rates and GP declarations of commitment was set by the HSE as being September 15, 2011 and two such submissions were received . 'In September of 2011 the preferred provider, which is Rhonellen Ltd, was selected on the basis of acceptable location, acceptable rates offered and maximised GP involvement and, in November 2011, the HSE signed an agreement to enter into a lease for the provision of new Primary Care Centre in Balbriggan via this Operational Lease process.'
Asked who made the decision, the HSE said: 'HSE Board approval was received to progress a lease in Balbriggan via the operational lease mechanism. The submissions were assessed by the HSE Estates office and local primary care services and the preferred site selected by them.' On the financial arrangement for the provision of the centre, the HSE said: ' The HSE is currently in contract with Rhonellen Developments for the delivery of a Primary care Centre in Balbriggan by way of Operational Lease. 'Under the Operational Lease process the preferred provider will fund the project with the HSE entering into a 25 year lease on completion of the building works and fit out of HSE accommodation. ' There is no subsidy or financial support to the development other than the HSE paying the negotiated rent and service charge which are at a discount from the prevailing commercial rent for the area.
'The HSE will pay the negotiated rent and service charge which are at a discount from the prevailing commercial rent for the area.' Asked what was the benefit of Balbriggan being on the priority list unveiled in July if the project was going ahead anyway, the HSE said: ' The HSE signed an agreement to enter into a lease for a the provision of new Primary Care Centre in Balbriggan via an Operational Lease process. ' This agreement is subject to a number of conditions which have yet to be satisfied. The benefit to the HSE of Balbriggan being included on the new list is that in the event that the Operational Lease Process not being completed for any reason then the PPP option is available to deliver the Primary Care Centre. It should be noted that Balbriggan was not moved up the priority list.