Minister defends stance on centres


MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has again defended his decision to include two towns in his constituency in a priority list for primary care centres.

Dr Reilly denied that he had agreed with former minister of state Róisín Shortall that priority would be given to areas of urban and rural deprivation in the selection of projects to be prioritised.

In a letter to Dr Reilly last July, Ms Shortall stated that “we agreed and subsequently minuted that ‘the provision of centres should be informed by needs analysis, with priority given to areas of urban and rural deprivation’.”

A spokesman for the Minister said yesterday no official record existed of this minute, so it was likely that it was taken by Ms Shortall’s side, probably because the matter was “at issue”.

Ms Shortall resigned on Wednesday after failing to obtain an explanation from Dr Reilly for his decision to add 15 locations, including Swords and Balbriggan, to a list of 35 priority sites for primary care centres.

In the Dáil on Thursday evening, Dr Reilly said Swords had been identified as a high priority area for the centres five years ago. The HSE said yesterday it did not have this list on file and referred queries to the Department of Health, which had not responded by yesterday evening.

Last night, former HSE director of estates Brian Gilroy said the two towns had been among “close to 200” locations he had recommended to the HSE board around 2008.

While the locations had not been listed in order of priority, the two towns were in one of the early batches sent to the board.

In the Dáil, the Minister said both places “lost out” after Ms Shortall increased the weighting attached to deprivation in drawing up her priority list earlier this year.

Dr Reilly’s spokesman stressed the need for GP buy-in to ensure that centres got built, and said too strong an emphasis on deprivation ran the risk of ghettoising primary care.