UNDER intense questioning in the Dáil from health spokespersons from Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the Socialist Party last Wednesday, the under fire Minister for Health, James Reilly, explained why the list of priority sites for primary care centres was expanded from 20 to 35.
Dr. Reilly told the Dáil: 'Earlier this year, the HSE put together a list of high priority locations for the development of primary care centres throughout Ireland. 'Three criteria were deployed for selecting primary care centres: an assessment of deprivation – the deprivation index for the catchment population of the centre; the service priority identified by each integrated service area and local health office; and an accommodation assessment which assessed accommodation available for the primary care team within the catchment area, the quality of the accommodation and whether the accommodation was spread over more than one building. 'Other factors were considered when selecting centres for the inclusion on the PPP list. New criteria were added. It was evident, for example, that consideration needed to be given to existing health facilities or the lack thereof; GP to population ratio; pressures on services, particularly acute services; funding options, including Exchequer-funded HSE build or lease; and the implementability of a public private partnership relating to its size, site and scale.' Explaining the addition of 15 new sites, he said: 'By deciding to create a list of 35 rather than 20 locations, I provided positive encouragement for engagement and financial participation by GPs in this significant and important stimulus package. 'When dealing with public private partnerships, PPPs, it makes sense to maximise the options available. 'As I mentioned earlier, PPP is one of the three methods of delivery being considered by the HSE for the purpose of developing primary care centres. Lease and Exchequer-funded HSE builds are also under consideration. 'The list of 35 potential locations referred to those that may be progressed by way of the public private partnership. It is envisaged that 20 of these locations will be progressed by these means. 'With regard to the criteria for progressing centres, I am satisfied that the criteria I have outlined are appropriate for the selection of primary care centre locations in the future.'