Just seven of the 35 care hubs pledged by Reilly open
Just seven of the controversial list of 35 primary care centres announced by former health minister James Reilly nearly six years ago are operational, it has emerged.
The current minister Simon Harris opened two centres, in Kilcock, Co Kildare, and Coolock, Dublin, but many others remain bogged down in various stages of the procurement, design and planning process.
Some 28 others have yet to open their doors to patients. Dr Reilly, who lost his Dáil seat in the last General Election and is now a member of the Seanad, became embroiled in a bitter row in 2012 when he added 15 locations to a list of 20 for primary care centres.
Two of the new locations, Balbriggan and Swords, were in his own constituency. At the time, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who had responsibility for transport, said it looked like "stroke politics".
But Dr Reilly insisted his decision was based on a "logistical logarithmic progression".
However, six years on progress is slow in delivering much-needed primary care centres - which can play an important role in reducing the pressure on hospitals and provide a one-stop shop for GP and other services for patients.
Mr Harris yesterday defended the delays, saying more would be opened this year and there were complexities in securing financing for public private partnerships and operational leases.
Referring to the centres in Kilcock and Coolock, he said: "These two new centres are the latest in a planned national network of primary care centres, which are being developed to provide a broad range of health services to local communities."
He said that 114 centres are now operational across the country and six have opened so far this year in Ballinrobe, Boyle, Limerick City, Kilcock, Claremorris and Grangegorman. Another 13 are scheduled to open in 2018.
Mr Harris said the Kilcock and Coolock centres are part of the first public private partnership programme in the health services, which will see a total of 14 purpose-built centres delivered across the country by the end of this year.
"The centres will also offer a range of primary care services including GP and nurse services, home help, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and psychology."
It emerged the implementation plan for Sláintecare, the blueprint for the future of the health service, which aims to see an expansion of services in the community, will not be ready until Easter although it was promised in December.
It is understood the search for a suitable executive director to head the new Sláintecare office to drive the plan is proving more difficult than anticipated.