Delays to 35 out of 36 planned primary care centres

One opened but no progress made on some other centres since 2012, says Simon Harris

Just one of the 36 primary care centres promised by the last government four years ago to improve community health services has opened its doors.

The centre in Kells, Co Meath, started operating earlier this year, but the other 35 centres are either under construction, at design stage or have not progressed since 2012, Minister for Health Simon Harris confirmed.

The provision of primary care infrastructure is subject to suitable locations being offered or available and is in some cases subject to market pressures such as a developer’s access to adequate financing, Mr Harris said.

"Some of these factors are outside the control of the HSE. Delivery of primary care infrastructure is a dynamic process, constantly evolving to take account of changing circumstances including the feasibility of implementation," he told Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher in answer to a parliamentary question.


Twenty of the proposed new centres were supposed to have been delivered by the public-private partnership mechanism, with the rest leased or directly built by the HSE. The aim is to group the provision of community services by GPs, nurses, physiotherapists and other health professionals under one roof.

Priority list

However, the government’s plans ran into immediate controversy over the inclusion on the priority list of two locations, Swords and Balbriggan, which were in the constituency of then minister for health, Dr

James Reilly


It emerged that HSE officials had ranked the two north Dublin locations well down in the overall list, but both made the priority list after the intervention of Dr Reilly and a Cabinet decision. The site originally preferred for the Swords primary care centre has since been sold and a new advertisement is required for the project, according to the latest update from Mr Harris. Construction of the Balbriggan centre is under way and it is expected to open in early 2017.

Mr Kelleher said the lack of progress amounted to an indictment of the Government’s failure to develop primary care services. “They talk about primary care all the time but the promised infrastructure is still a long way short of what it should be.”

In total, 14 centres are under construction. There are in Kilcock Co Kildare; Coolock/Darndale, Summerhill and Balbriggan, Co Dublin; Wexford town; Dungarvan and Waterford city; Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary; Limerick city; Tuam, Co Galway; Boyle, Co Roscommon; Westport and Claremorris, Co Mayo; and Ballymote, Co Sligo.

Plans to build a centre in Dungloe, Co Donegal, have not progressed due to an “absence of GP interest”, according to the list.

The current Programme for Government promises a “decisive shift” towards primary care through the construction of 80 new centres in the coming years.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times