Anger as HSE unit objects to HSE-tendered supervised injection centre

by Rachel Darcy

A medically supervised injection centre at Merchant’s Quay has been delayed again, with the operators saying they need more time to address planning concerns.

Merchant’s Quay Ireland were given the tender to operate the centre from their HQ on the quays, with a planning application lodged for the centre last September, but the charity was met with severe resistance from local groups and businesses objecting to the centre.

In submissions against the centre, issues such as anti-social behaviour and an over-concentration of similar services were raised.

This led Dublin City Council (DCC) to request additional information from the charity before a decision could be made.

DCC is now granting Merchant’s Quay an extension to provide it with additional information on the planning application, meaning Merchant’s Quay must now submit the required information by August.

It originally had until May to provide a detailed assessment of why the injection centre wouldn’t add to an ‘over-concentration’ of facilities in the area, in addition to an operation plan for the centre and a policing plan.

Speaking on the extension from DCC, a spokesperson from Merchants Quay said: “To allow for a full and comprehensive response to be prepared, DCC have granted Merchants Quay Ireland an extension for submission of further information regarding the pilot medically supervised injecting facility until September 5.

“More than 700 lives are lost to addiction every year, and injecting facilities are proven to save lives.

“We share frustrations over the delay to the opening of the facility and will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure the earliest possible delivery of this vital and urgently needed health service.”

It was aimed for the centre to initially be open in 2017, but the move has faced several setbacks.

It is now expected that the centre won’t open until at least 2020, if permissions are given by DCC and An Bord Pleanala, despite legislation being passed in 2017 to make it legal to possess and take drugs in the centre.

One of the objectors to the plan for the injection centre is the HSE’s health business services unit. It was the HSE itself which issued the tender for the centre to begin with, leading to severe criticism that one of its own units is now objecting to what was originally a HSE proposal.

Labour candidate Declan Meenagh responded in anger to the HSE objecting to the supervised injection centre, saying it shows a “shocking lack of cop-on”.

Meenagh said: “These centres are international best practice because they reduce drug deaths and act as a first point of contact for [addicted] people to services.

“Everyone is rightly worried about the dangers of children finding used needles on the street and in our parks. The supervised injection centre will have ‘sharps’ boxes to safely dispose of needles.

“For one part of the HSE to license this centre and for another part to object to it shows a shocking lack of cop-on and brings up serious questions about the leadership of the HSE.

“I’m calling on the leadership of the HSE and the Minister for Health to confirm if they still support treating drug abuse as a public health issue, or are they following another policy and if so, what is the evidence that it will be more effective?

“I would also like to ask since when the HSE became responsible for protecting people going to mass [as raised by objections to the centre].

“The inclusion of this in their objection brings up a lot of questions. How exactly will providing a safe place inside a building for people to inject make it harder for people to walk around? This is simply not true.

“I’m calling on the Minister [for health] to order the HSE to withdraw this objection,” he said.

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