Saturday 24 February 2018

Reilly to face new grilling over plans for care centres

Michael Brennan and Eilish O'Regan

HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly has told people to "make their own minds up" after further questions emerged about his choice of primary care centre locations.

The controversy over his decision to add 15 more primary care centres to the existing list of 20 -- including two in his Dublin North constituency -- has entered its third week.

And he will be quizzed again about his health reform plans on Wednesday when he brings his bill to change the management structure of the HSE to the Seanad.

The pressure on Dr Reilly continued with further revelations yesterday:

• He confirmed that he had consulted with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore about the locations of the extra primary care centres.

• He met with Environment Minister Phil Hogan to discuss "primary care" -- a primary care centre for Mr Hogan's native Kilkenny was one of those included on his additional list.

• He sent a letter to members of Balbriggan Town Council telling them a site had been selected by the HSE and a price agreed for its purchase -- before he added the town to the list.

The Irish Independent revealed last week that the site in Balbriggan was owned by one of Dr Reilly's supporters -- developer Seamus Murphy. Dr Reilly and the HSE have insisted that he had no involvement in the selection of the site.

But over the weekend Dr Reilly stood over his action in adding extra primary care centre locations -- which led to Labour Junior Minister Roisin Shortall's resignation.


"With the best will in the world I have answered the Dail twice on this.

"I have been on radio and I don't think there is any benefit in going over all this again. It is all there for people to examine and they can make their own mind up," he said.

He was speaking at the annual general meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association in Galway, where he confirmed that the centres in Balbriggan and Swords in his constituency looked set to go ahead.

"Of course we want to go ahead with primary care centres right across the country.

"There are 338 areas that we have identified. There are at least 200 of them that we want to make happen or at least start in the term of this government," he said.

Fianna Fail chief whip Sean O Fearghail called on the Taoiseach to deal with fresh questions about what Dr Reilly knew about the selection of the sites.

But Jobs Minister Richard Bruton defended Dr Reilly, saying he had set out the criteria very clearly for how he added 15 extra primary care centres to the original list of 20.

"He is a really reforming minister and I've seen it at first hand," he told RTE's 'This Week'.

A grassroots Labour group -- Campaign for Labour Policies -- is calling on the party to seek his resignation ahead of its meeting in Dublin on Wednesday.

Irish Independent

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