MINISTER JAMES REILLY last night sought to turn the tables in the row over the allocation of primary care centres, which this week resulted in his junior minister Róísín Shortall stepping down.
Reilly claimed that the list of 20 towns to be allocated primary care centres, drawn up by Shortall, had trebled the importance of urban deprivation in those rankings – and said the original list did not consider the rankings given in a previous HSE list, compiled in 2007.
The minister said that 2007 had included both Swords and Balbriggan among its top 35 venues – but those towns had dropped down in Shortall’s list because of the former junior minister’s decision to treble the weighting given to urban deprivation when compiling her own list.
The minister has previously sought to explain that his revision of list took into account other factors, such as the availability of buildings to house any new centres, or the interest of local GPs in offering services at the proposed facilities.
The original list, Reilly explained, meant Rathfarnham – which has no medical facilities – would remain without one, while instead Tallaght would get a new centre “in the shadow” of the local hospital.
He also said restricting the list to a possible 20 would mean other towns could not benefit if one of the original 20 venues did not materialise. ”Advice from the HSE and the Department of Health… is that if only 20 were pursued, slippage could arise, and the health system could lose valuable investment,” he said.
Reilly’s amendments to Shortall’s list have proven controversial, amid suggestions that Balbriggan and Swords had been included because the minister was prioritising his own Dublin North constituency and not on pure merit.
However, Reilly’s claim has been contested by the Irish Times, whose writers Paul Cullen and Martin Wall say documents they obtained last week showed Balbriggan and Swords as being well down the list.
This was the case both before and after Shortall attached greater weighting to urban deprivation, the paper says – adding that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had summoned both Reilly and Shortall to a meeting in July to deal with their differences of opinions on the subject.