Mixed reaction to stimulus primary care centres announcement

There was good news for Mayo this week in the Government’s €2 billion stimulus package which included two Primary Care Centres for Mayo.

Based in Westport and Ballina, the two centres, when operational, will reduce pressure on Mayo General Hospital by providing a range of services including GP, mental health, public health nursing, occupational health, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, dental services, along with visiting services in nutrition, psychology and podiatry.

However, the opposition spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Dara Calleary TD, is sceptical about whether these two projects will actually reach construction phase given that in the stimulus package fine print it states that only 20 of the proposed 35 Primary Care Centres will be built.

The Westport centre is set to cost in the region of €4 million to develop and will replace the dilapidated current Health Centre which, according to Minister for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring, “has outlived its usefulness”.

Works are ongoing between the HSE and Westport Town Council to secure a suitable site for the centre.

The announcement was welcomed by Minister Ring who said the facility will create employment in both the construction and operational phases.

According to Fine Gael Deputy John O’Mahony, this week’s announcement is an example of the government’s commitment to the development of Primary Care facilities in the community which allows ease of accessibility to services and reduces time spent in hospitals and travelling long distances to access necessary services.

The Claremorris project is shovel ready with the site already acquired and a draft design in place.

However, while the government TDs were busy welcoming these projects, Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary has described the Government’s stimulus plan as a shameless PR stunt based on re-announcing investments that were first announced by the previous Government and subsequently shelved by Fine Gael and Labour.

“There will be no new roads or new schools for Mayo under the plan and the two Primary Care Centres in Mayo are not guaranteed – it seems they are subject to further HSE agreement,” said Dep Calleary.

“The plan includes 35 Primary Care Centres, two of which are in Claremorris and Westport. However the fine print clearly states that only 20 of these will actually be built and only if local GPs agree. There is no guarantee if and when our centres will be built,” explained Dep Calleary.

“While it will come as a relief that the Government has seen the error of its ways in shelving key projects in the west like the Gort to Tuam motorway, this plan provides little comfort to 13,424 people in Mayo who are currently on the Live Register. There will be very few new jobs in Mayo or in any part of the country for at least two years. The earliest we will see any of these projects commence is 2014, with some work scheduled for 2017 and beyond,” he added.

Dep Calleary said the stimulus package would go nowhere towards filling the gap left by the “massive cuts” in capital expenditure announced by Minister Howlin last November.

“Overall the Government should at least maintain capital expenditure at 2011 levels. Even with their new stimulus programme, they will not achieve this,” said Dep Calleary.

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