Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Primary Care Centres
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach as ucht an deis seo a thabhairt dom an t-ábhar seo a ardú ar an Athló. This important matter has been in the news for the past week and relates to the primary health care centres. Although the row between the Minister of Health, Deputy Reilly, and the Minister of State, Deputy Shortall, is ongoing, the public need primary health care.
I am particularly concerned about the centre in Kells, County Meath, the Minister's addition of which to the list was welcome and understandable. He made the right decision, but what was the reality behind it? For years, a number of efforts were made to get a primary health care centre for Kells and to launch a public private partnership, PPP, model in conjunction with local doctors, yet nothing came of them. My colleagues on the town council, Councillors Sean Drew, Bryan Reilly and Frankie Lynch, tabled a motion calling on the Minister to establish a primary health care centre in Kells. The motion was passed and forwarded to the Minister. Perhaps he decided to reinstate the centre on the list in response to those representations.
The people of Kells deserve to know the up-to-date position. Regardless of the unnecessary brouhaha about the provenance of the list, people in the towns in question want to know whether they will get the centres that they have been promised and deserve.
I thank the Senator for raising this matter. I welcome the opportunity to outline the current position on Kells primary health care centre. As the Senator is aware, the programme for Government sets out the Government's commitment to ensuring a better and more efficient health system and a single tier health service that will deliver equal access to health care based on need, not income. In a developed primary care system, up to 95% of people's day-to-day health and social care needs can be met in the primary care setting. The key objective of the primary care strategy is to develop services in the community that will give people direct access to integrated multidisciplinary teams of general practitioners, GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other health care disciplines. This is central to the Government's objective of delivering a high quality, integrated and cost-effective health system.
A modern, well equipped primary care infrastructure is central to the effective functioning of primary care teams. These teams enable multidisciplinary services to be delivered on a single site, provide a single point of access for users and encourage closer co-ordination between health providers. The infrastructure development, through a combination of public and private investment, will facilitate the delivery of multidisciplinary primary health care and represents a tangible refocusing of the health service to deliver care in the most appropriate and lowest cost setting.
The intention to date has been that, where appropriate, infrastructure for primary care centres would be provided by the private sector through negotiated lease agreements. The Exchequer will also fund the delivery of some primary care centres, particularly in deprived urban areas, small rural towns and isolated areas. In addition, a list of 35 potential locations for development by way of PPP as part of the Government's infrastructure stimulus package was published in July.
The provision of a centre in Kells has been progressed to date by way of a private sector operational lease process. Submissions were assessed by the HSE. A preferred provider was identified that satisfied the HSE key criteria and offered acceptable accommodation, in development, at a suitable location on the Dublin road in the town. An agreement for lease was reached with the preferred provider in 2010 and planning permission was received for the approximately 30,000 sq. ft. development. However the preferred provider has not been able to deliver the new primary care accommodation, due mainly to funding difficulties.
The HSE continues to engage with the preferred provider in the hope that the facility might be delivered within the timeframes of the agreement. While it continues to consider the possibility of delivering the centre by the private sector operational lease process, it is also considering alternative mechanisms and opportunities, including the PPP process. Kells is included in the locations being considered by the HSE for the Government's infrastructure stimulus package. Accordingly, the HSE is engaging with GPs in the area to assess GP interest and determine how best to deliver primary care accommodation in Kells.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply. He acknowledged the work of his former party colleague, Ms Mary Harney. Many of his colleagues would not do that, but she did a great deal of work in this regard in Kells. Unfortunately, the private sector let her down.
The HSE seems to be continuing with unrealistic negotiations. The Minister and Deputies Hannigan and McEntee promised a primary health care centre to the people of Kells. I will continue to fight to ensure the Government delivers on its promise. The people of Kells will not accept the vague language of the Minister of State's speech, as specific promises were made.
I have delivered a number of speeches in this House in the past year and a half and argue that this was one of the least vague. The HSE is working closely with GPs in the area. We must assess the GPs' resources as well as their level of interest in delivering a primary care centre. I have been assured the HSE is being as creative and innovative as possible in securing the best possible solution in the shortest timeframe to provide Kells with a centre.