The sod has finally been turned on a new primary care network centre at Clonbrusk, Athlone.
The HSE says the new facility will provide all the health and social care needs of the people of the town in an integrated fashion, with many of the HSE and GP services provided from the same building.
Now a greenfield site the new buildings will include general practitioner, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dental, social work, public health nurse, MIDOC, and mental health services with provision for addiction services.
There will also be a day hospital for mental health patients as well as speech and language, dietetics, and psychology services and will house the four primary care teams in Athlone.
HSE area manager for Dublin Mid Leinster Joe Ruane described it as a great day for the people of Athlone, with the first patients scheduled to go through the doors in 14 months.
Up to a 100 people will be employed in the construction phase.
He admitted the project is a long time coming, but said the best things in life are worth waiting for, and if it’s not as big as originally planned, it’s still a good project.
While the service will not include long stay beds as originally envisaged, the HSE is absolutely committed to long stay care at the St Vincent’s Community Nursing Centre in Athlone, he said.
He said HIQA reports show it as a unit which is developing and enhancing its services.
Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden who turned the sod, said it’s an important day for Athlone, as a variety of practitioners will be able to share their experience with patients, giving them a far better standard of care.
Having so many experts under one roof will be “absolutely phenomenal” and “a big, big improvement”.
Kevin Boxer Moran admitted that it’s seven years since he stood in the field for the RTÉ news, anticipating the project, but said he stood by Joe Ruane, whom he said always committed to delivering the project.
“I’m absolutely delighted as a public representative. I suppose being the hard times we’re in people said this would never happen, and something like this today is great news for the people of Athlone,” he said.
“In the boom time, what was planned for here was maybe too big. But the fact that the long stay beds are not in the project I believe means we’re securing the long stay beds in St Vincent’s,” he said.
“Only recently I had to go to the hospital myself late on a Friday evening, for something that could have been done here,” he said, looking forward to an end to queues and a better health service for the people of Athlone.