Varadkar says Reilly move looks like stroke politics
THE DECISION by Minister for Health James Reilly to add two towns in his constituency to a priority list for primary care centres looked like stroke politics, one of his Cabinet colleagues said last night.
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said that, while the reality may be different, “it does look like it. I don’t know if it is or not.”
Mr Varadkar’s comments on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics will continue to heap pressure on Dr Reilly over his controversial decision, which has already caused conflict between himself and Labour Minister of State in his department Róisín Shortall.
Meanwhile Dr Reilly provided a new justification yesterday for adding the two towns in his constituency to the priority list for primary care centres, saying the proposed facilities in Swords and Balbriggan would help reduce overcrowding in local hospitals.
He also justified his addition of Ballaghaderreen and Boyle in Co Roscommon to the list, arguing the need for a primary care centre in the county was clear since the emergency department of Roscommon hospital was replaced with an urgent care centre last July.
Local TD Frank Feighan (FG) confirmed he made representations to Dr Reilly to have primary centres in the towns. Although neither figures in the list of priority locations drawn up by HSE officials, they were added to the final list by Dr Reilly.
Ms Shortall drew up a list of 20 priority locations for the centres. Dr Reilly added 16 others and dropped one when announcing the final list in July. Ballaghaderreen and Boyle ranked about 250th on Ms Shortall’s list, Balbriggan was 44th and Swords was 130th.
Dr Reilly was asked yesterday to identify which politicians had lobbied him in relation to the centres but his spokesman declined to answer.
In relation to Swords and Balbriggan, he said the successful development of primary care centres at these locations would be beneficial in the Dublin North East region of the HSE, where overcrowding in hospital emergency departments was worst.
It has also emerged Dr Reilly promised constituents in June that primary centres would be developed locally while the process of selection was ongoing. On June 5th he told the Fingal Independent: “I’m very pleased to say the one in Balbriggan is running ahead . . . I would think before the end of the year, we would have news on that and we will have a site.”
On July 17th Dr Reilly said priority would be given to 35 locations for primary care centres at part of the Government’s stimulus package, including the two he selected in his own constituency, Swords and Balbriggan.
Mr Varadkar continued on The Week in Politics last night: “You have to trust your colleagues to make the right decisions and make them on the right basis and I trust Dr Reilly in that regard. But I don’t know all the details.”