Friday 22 November 2019

First care centre list didn't cover enough areas – Reilly

Shane Phelan and Cormac McQuinn

HEALTH Minister James Reilly objected to a draft list of 20 proposed primary care centre sites because it did not give "a sufficient geographical spread".

The rough list was sent to the minister a week before he approved a final list of 35 locations, which included two sites in his own constituency that had not made the initial cut.

According to newly released Department of Health emails, Dr Reilly was unhappy with the original list drafted by then junior minister Roisin Shortall and officials. Ms Shortall later resigned over Dr Reilly's decision to add the locations.

The internal correspondence quotes Dr Reilly's assistant Tom O'Leary as saying: "The minister has issues with the chosen locations – not a significant geographical spread."

The disclosure adds further to the mix of reasons given for the decision – one which critics, including Ms Shortall, say has never been adequately explained.

Mr O'Leary's comments were recorded by an official on July 9, eight days before the final list was published.

The original list was largely based on catering for the most deprived areas of the country, with Swords and Balbriggan both outside the top 20 under those criteria.

An internal Department of Health memo dated July 2 states Dr Reilly asked the HSE for a review of the original list as the "outputs are unexpected".

One explanation given publicly by Dr Reilly, in the wake of Ms Shortall's resignation, was that too much importance was given to urban deprivation in the original list.

Dr Reilly said lack of existing health facilities, funding issues, and "implementability" were other factors in his decision, adding his selection process involved "a logistical logarithmic progression" and there was "nothing simple about it".

However, Ms Shortall was quick to voice her concerns.


In an email to a Department of Health official on July 24, a week after the announcement, Ms Shortall wrote: "The list supplied appears to confirm that the capital list was changed by Minister Reilly from the original list agreed between ourselves and the HSE on the basis of the HSE ranking.

"Minister Reilly appears to have added several centres without regard to the ranking and deleted others which were supposed to be prioritised."

Meanwhile, a new €1m primary care centre which has not even been handed over to the HSE is too small for its designed purpose.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have slated the situation as "an appalling waste of taxpayers' money".

The complex at Harbour View Road in Knocknaheeny, Cork was first proposed in 2004 and, on January 1 next, will be handed over to the HSE by the city council.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News