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The unit in the Ennis Primary Care Centre is currently designated for cafe/retail. Photography by Eugene McCafferty

Permission sought for Clare’s first MRI unit in Ennis

THE development of Clare’s first MRI unit is being planned for Ennis by a leading provider of diagnostic imaging.

At the moment patients in need of MRI scans have to travel outside Clare, with the nearest units in Limerick and Galway.

Alliance Medical is seeking planning permission to allow for the development of an MRI diagnostic unit at the newly opened Primary Care Centre situated at the former Braid’s site on Station Road.

The planning application seeks a change in use of an already permitted ground floor cafe/coffee shop unit, which is currently vacant, to medical use.

The company has been given permission by the site’s owners Valley Healthcare to make the planning application to Clare County Council.

A planning statement prepared by Coakley O’Neill on behalf of the applicant and lodged with the application outlines that Ennis, as the county’s key town “is ideally suited” to provide these facilities and “within Ennis, the newly opened primary care centre is an appropriate location”.

It outlines while the planned facility is “modest in scale” with one single unit, “the proposed development is one project that can contribute towards the achievement of national health targets and objectives and make a significant positive contribution to the delivery of healthcare at a local level within the community”.

If given the go-ahead, the new MRI unit will comprise an office and waiting area located adjacent to the existing primary care centre lobby.

Adjoining this are preparation areas including bathroom and changing areas for MRI patients.

Beyond this area will be the MRI control room and main room containing the MRI machine. This room will have a copper encasement in order to provide electromagnetic shielding.
A new external exit door will be located centrally on the northern facade of the building.

The planning statement describes the Ennis Primary Care Centre as “a key healthcare facility in the town, providing a range of health and social services of benefit to the community”.

It outlines, “Primary care involves the promotion of healthy lifestyles and keeping people well, delivering health care at the lowest level of complexity and as close as possible to where people live, and providing person-centred care based on assessed need and through multidisciplinary working.

“Government and HSE policy consider the primary care setting the appropriate setting to meet the majority of health and social services needs with the potential to prevent development of conditions that might later require hospitalisation, and facilitation of earlier discharge from hospital,” it outlined.

The document goes on state Clare has seen population growth in recent years.

“This growing population necessitates the delivery of improved health facilities in the county.

“In line with this, it is a primary aim of both the current and draft Clare County Development Plan to increase the provision of adequate healthcare facilities throughout Clare, with a particular emphasis on integrating new medical facilities within existing communities within the county.”

The report points out there are currently no MRI diagnostic units within Clare, with the nearest units of this nature in Galway 61km from Ennis or Limerick city, 45km from Ennis.

The proposed development “is a direct response to the contemporary paradigm for Clare, which is dictated by a growing need for new medical facilities and national policy objectives supporting the provision of same”.

The report submits there is “no practical demand” for a cafe on site within the Primary Care Unit or in the immediate area taking into account that the centre is so close to Ennis town centre.

It is argued that the proposed unit is in keeping with the permitted uses at the centre. “Although the centre currently provides numerous medical diagnostic services, it crucially does not have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Unit.”

It contends that the unit “would be an appropriate and positive addition to the Primary Care Centre” .

A decision on the planning application is expected to be made in March of this year.

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