Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Covid-19: New Measures: Statements

 

5:07 pm

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)

I again want to raise with the Minister the need for a Covid-19 testing centre and vaccination centre in Drogheda. The Minister knows the incidence rates in Drogheda are again the highest in the State. One in 40 have tested positive and it is one in 20 if we take a 28-day perspective, yet there is still no testing centre in Drogheda - no permanent centre and no pop-up facility. This is unbelievable. It is Ireland's largest town. It neighbours east Meath, which has the fifth highest rate in the State. The HSE in the region is doing its very best but at national level, the HSE should be agile enough to deploy the available resources where they are needed and when they are needed, and it evidently is not.

I am not making a narrow parochial argument. The facts and the evidence are there to support the case for a full testing centre and vaccination centre to serve Drogheda, south Louth and east Meath. I have raised it with the Minister before and I will raise it again. Figures from the CSO tell us that vaccine take-up in the area is significantly lower than the national average, which is another reason we should make it as easy as possible for people to be vaccinated by providing vaccination centres where people live.

Today at 10 a.m., there were no slots available for testing in Louth, Meath or Dublin, and there were 115 in Monaghan. If the Minister is serious about dealing with this, he can use his functions and he can instruct the HSE to establish a testing centre in Drogheda. We had pop-up centres when the number of cases was lower yet nobody in the HSE can tell me what threshold is applied to establish a permanent centre or a pop-up centre. What is the problem and where is the transparency?

Accessibility is key. In Drogheda, families tell me of the difficulty they have in getting to Ardee to be tested. There are 3,000 households in the town of Drogheda that do not have cars, according to the last census. Too many people who need to be tested are not being tested, frankly, because they cannot access the centre, and the pressure then falls on the National Ambulance Service, which, as the Minister knows, is stretched. The Minister and the HSE nationally need to act. I appeal to the Minister to act in the interests of the people of Drogheda, south Louth and east Meath.

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