Care centre site choices 'not political'
Dáil report:The Taoiseach has said the Fianna Fáil leader is making “a mountain out of a molehill” in challenging the Government’s selection of primary care centre locations.
In heated exchanges, Enda Kenny said Micheál Martin should be interested in seeing the centres’ foundations were cut, contracts put in place, workers employed to build them, leaving patients and citizens with first-class facilities.
Mr Kenny said the expanded list of 35 was required to allow for 20 centres, as Mr Martin would be aware.
“He is coming back in here, time and again, trying to make a case that there was unwarranted political interference for some kind of commercial gain,” the Taoiseach added.
“Deputy Martin is wrong and he should be big enough to recognise that and get on with building these primary care centres in the interests of the people all over the country.”
Mr Martin said freedom-of-information documents on the selection of centres revealed a much different story from the one outlined by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore during repeated questions, not to mention by Minister for Health James Reilly.
The documents, he said, showed the list of 33 locations was signed off by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on Friday, July 13th, and, significantly, did not include Balbriggan and Swords. However, on Monday, July 16th, there was a flurry of emails between Dr Reilly’s office, the Department of Health and others.
“At 6.02 pm on the night before the Cabinet meeting, Swords and Balbriggan were still not on the list,” Mr Martin added. “By 6.22 pm, 20 minutes later, they are on the list.”
He added that by Monday evening the price for a public private partnership (PPP) site had been agreed. Ten minutes later an adviser consulted the Minister and was told “both Swords and Balbriggan will stay”.
Mr Martin said the key point was those were commercial decisions. “A public-private partnership is a different model to a lease model. A lease model had been agreed.”
Mr Martin asked Mr Kenny if he accepted it was wrong for a Minister to get so involved in the detailed selection of PPPs and in the modality of the commercial relationships between the State and private consortia.
More than 20
Mr Kenny said his only interest was in agreeing with Dr Reilly there should be more than 20 put on the list to bring about competition, a buy-in from GPs and to ensure that under the PPP system at least 20 would get across the line.
“The Minister, Deputy Reilly, had no function whatsoever in the selection of sites for primary care centres, as distinct from locations that he would have determined by the expanded criteria he set out,” the Taoiseach added.
Mr Martin said that although the Government had made its decision last July, it was December before he got his information. He added the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister would not tell the truth about the issue in the House.
It was black and white, he said – the Minister interfered in a commercial arrangement.
Mr Kenny said Mr Martin should not come into the Dáil and claim he had told lies about the matter. The Government had introduced a €2.5 billion economic stimulus package, which included health, education, justice, transport and the major development of Grangegorman.
“My interest was in seeing that these proposals were signed off in terms of the stimulus package,” he added.
Mr Kenny said there was a time when Mr Martin was on the Government benches “and refused to acknowledge that he left behind him a budgetary deficit of €646 million in the Department of Health”.