ENNIS has been excluded in the latest list of 16 primary health care centres, which are being progressed nationwide by the HSE, Health Minister James Reilly has confirmed.
Ennis was included as one of the 35 potential locations for primary care centres to be developed by means of a public-private partnership when the Government announced details of its multi-million euro stimulus package in July 2012.
However, Minster Reilly has admitted that the public private partnership approach to developing a primary health care centre in Ennis will now not proceed, as local GPs are not in favour of the process.
While Ennis remains on the HSE’s schedule of primary care centres to be developed, it looks as if a successful completion of this project is years away.
Minister Reilly stated that an operational lease is being considered as the best option and the preferred choice of local GPs.
“The HSE continues to engage with potential developers who have expressed an interest with a view to making progress on this development as soon as possible. However, we will not build primary care centres that will lie idle, while GPs sit outside asking how much they will be paid to go in,” he said.
This issue was raised by Deputy Pat Breen, who noted planning permission has been granted for another centre in the vicinity of Ennis thanks to the efforts of GPs and private investment.
“The advantage of a HSE centre is that it provides equality of access for people across the board. We were all under the impression that Ennis would be included in the first round bundle of primary care centres to be developed and I was disappointed to hear yesterday that the HSE had not included it in its list of 16 projects to progress.
“Given the changes that have occurred in the hospital structure in County Clare in recent years, the development of a primary care centre in Ennis would alleviate pressure on resources at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick,” he said.
Expressing his disappointment with this decision, Deputy Michael McNamara is seeking clarification from Minister Reilly and the HSE as to why Ennis was not chosen.
“ I realise that agreement was necessary between local GPs and the HSE on active GP involvement in the centres as well as site suitability and availability. We need to know to what extent Ennis had met these two very significant criteria,” he said.
Deputy McNamara hopes that a primary care centre can be negotiated for Ennis under what is called the operational lease model whereby a developer would provide the building and lease it to the HSE. “Of course, this model also requires the agreement of local GPs to make the centre work. However, it is important to remember that Ennis has a primary care health service. Whilst a new building is important, it is the team and the service they provide that matters most to the patient,” he added.