MINISTER for Health Dr James Reilly said that he stands over his decision to add 15 sites to the HSE list of priority primary care locations, including two in his own constituency of Swords and Balbriggan.
Dr Reilly was criticised after controversially placing two towns in his own Dublin North constituency into the top 35 list of locations chosen for primary care centres, with one of the locations reportedly jumping over 100 places on the priority list.
Defending his decision on RTE News at One last week, Reilly said he would be “negligent in his duty” to exclusively use the Urban Deprivation Index and ignore other factors.
When adding centres to the list, Dr Reilly said he took into consideration general practitioner (GP) competition, the existence of health facilities in the area and accessibility to health facilities.
“If you wish to address the specifics around the two of my own constituencies, the original criteria used for these was based purely on an urban deprivation index,” he told Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1.
“I, as a GP of 25 years standing, have worked in the community and understand it’s a lot broader than that. You must take in to consideration other criteria such as existence of health facilities in the area already and also accessibility.
“Balbriggan is a town that has the second highest density of unemployment in Dublin and therefore is hugely urbanly deprived in that regard.
“Swords, on the other hand, has a population of 48,000, has no primary care centre and has no direct link by public transport to the hospital at Beaumount.
“I made this decision and I know [Minister of State, Roisin Shortall] disagrees with it, but I’ve made the decision, I have the authority to so do, I did it with good reason, I took advice here in the department and I took further advice from the HSE and I also consulted several ministerial colleagues. I have made the decision and if I had to make the decision again I would make the very same decision.”
Dr Reilly went on to say that there was good news for the people of Balbriggan this week: “The HSE have signed a lease to provide the primary care centre in Balbriggan and it will be lodging application for planning permission next month and the GP’s are on board.”