Reilly to open €10m health facility at centre of location row
Former health minister James Reilly is to officially open a primary care centre in the heart of his constituency, despite the controversy over the location during his term in office.
The selection of Balbriggan for the €10m facility caused uproar in 2012 after it was among a number of late additions to a HSE priority list.
The ensuing row contributed to the resignation of Mr Reilly's then junior minister in the Department of Health, Roisin Shortall.
Ahead of the opening, Mr Reilly told the Herald he is now lobbying his successor, Simon Harris, to provide funding for extra services including X-ray and ultrasound equipment.
"Some people saw it as controversial; it makes perfect sense to me. I make no apology for standing up for Balbriggan," the Fine Gael senator said.
Around 150 staff are already based in the centre, including eight GPs. It also houses occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dentists, speech and language experts and mental health professionals.
Back in 2012, the HSE identified 200 potential venues for primary care centres before ranking each and sending 20 recommendations to the Department of Health.
However, when the final list was published it was expanded by 15 towns, including Balbriggan and Swords, which are both in the minister's Dublin Fingal constituency. Mr Reilly, who is a practising GP, says the success of the centre is evidence that it was justified.
He noted that Balbriggan is the youngest town in Ireland and the centre is available to 67,000 people in the surrounding areas.
Mr Reilly is now canvassing the current health minister for more funding.
"Patients with, for example, a suspected gall bladder problem could be treated locally at the primary care centre after an ultrasound test.
"This would avoid forcing the patient to travel to Beaumont Hospital in congested traffic, queuing for an X-ray, ultrasound and undergoing a battery of tests by a team of doctors who do not know the medical history of the patient," Mr Reilly said.
Likewise, he said emergency departments in Dublin and Drogheda would see demand reduced if Balbriggan had an X-ray machine.