Seanad debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Commencement Matters

Primary Care Centres

10:30 am

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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Gabhaim mo buíochas leis an Aire Stáit as teacht isteach chun an t-ábhar tábhachtach seo a phlé.

It is good news that construction of Kells Primary Health Care Centre is now complete. It was the subject of a lengthy battle for the people of the area. When the former Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, published his infamous list of primary health care centre projects, the centre in Kells was not on it. As Members will recall, the centres in Balbriggan and Swords in the former Minister's constituency were included.

What I am seeking from the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, who is taking this matter on behalf of the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, whom I understand cannot be present, is an outline of the range of services that will be provided, an indication as to when the centre will be opened and, most importantly, whether, as omitted in the planning process, a safe bus stop will be provided to enable those using public transport to access the centre which is located on a busy bus route outside the town of Kells. It is important to ensure older people will be able to access the centre using public transport.

I have corresponded on the matter with the National Transport Authority which has informed me that it has corresponded on it with the HSE but that it has not yet received a formal reply. There is a need for joined-up thinking on the part of the agencies involved to ensure a bus stop will be provided to benefit a number of those likely to use the centre. Many people living in the area have signed a petition seeking installation of this facility and I am calling on the agencies involved to deliver it. I would welcome an update from the Minister of State.

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Dublin South East, Labour)
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I thank the Senator for raising this important issue which I am taking on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, who has responsibility for primary care issues.

The new primary care centre in Kells is being delivered under the operational lease mechanism. The centre is now complete and the HSE plans to move services there early in 2016. Two local GPs and their practice staff will be moving into their surgeries in the new centre in the coming weeks. The HSE will also shortly move a broad range of services into the new facility, including public health nursing, physiotherapy, podiatry, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, dental, psychology, social work, primary care counselling, clinical nutrition and dietetics and community mental health services. In addition, palliative care services for the population of north County Meath will operate from the centre.

In regard to the Senator's concern about the bus stop, I understand the HSE is in communication with Bus Éireann on the provision of a bus stop as close as possible to the centre. I agree with the Senator that the accessibility of the centre is very important and work on this issue is ongoing. The development of Kells primary care centre represents a step forward in the modernisation and updating of working practices, facilities and equipment and supporting ICT systems. The sharing of accommodation between GPs and HSE staff in one centre facilitates a team-based approach to service provision, which is the main purpose of primary care centres.

In the national context, the development of primary care teams and primary care centres is a priority in the programme for Government and an extremely important element of the health reform process. The provision of primary care centres and teams throughout the country will significantly increase health and social care services in local communities, which will be achieved by redirecting services away from acute hospitals. Primary care infrastructure is being delivered using three mechanisms: direct build, the leasing initiative and the public private partnership model announced in July 2012. The development of primary care centres, through a combination of public and private investment, will facilitate the delivery of multidisciplinary primary care services and represents a tangible refocusing of the health service to provide care in the most appropriate and lowest cost setting.

The modernisation of primary care accommodation and practice is vital to the successful delivery of services into the future. In this regard, there are 90 primary care centres in operation around the country, 47 of which have been opened since March 2011. Work is ongoing on a further 52 centres which are expected to be delivered by the first half of 2017. The development of primary care centres is central to the Government's objective of delivering a high quality, integrated and cost effective health system. Shared premises encourage and facilitate interaction across all health care professionals. For this reason, the Government is committed to the development of a network of new primary care centres.

I will bring the Senator's concerns about the provision of a bus stop to the attention of the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. As stated by him, it is important in the context of the forthcoming opening of the centre that there be a follow-through and delivery in this regard.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State for his response. I look forward to the opening of the centre.

Sitting suspended at 10.50 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.