Ireland

Minister lashes opening hours for new €10m primary care centre

Galway East TD Sean Canney at the Tuam Primary Care Centre. Photo: Johnny Ryan Photography.

A Government Minister has lashed out over the limited opening hours at a €10 million primary care centre in Tuam.

Minister Sean Canney said that the fact that the centre closes at lunchtime on Saturdays and doesn’t open at all on a Sunday was ridiculous – and he said it should be rectified without delay, given the amount of money spent on the facility in the first place.

The Primary Care Centre in Tuam serves a population of over 20,000 people and the services provided include public health nurses, community general nurses, a physiotherapist, dieticians and occupational therapists and they will work in conjunction with local GPs.

There is also a new midwife facility there, dental services while the centre will also accommodate around 10,000 x-rays each year – eliminating trips to Galway city for such a service – while it is also the base for the out-of-hours GP service Westdoc.

But Minister Canney says that the HSE West has to renegotiate the contracts with the Primary Care Centre operators in order to rectify the current situation without delay.

“We have a ridiculous situation whereby Tuam Primary Care Centre closes at Saturday lunchtime and does not open on Sundays,” he said.

“Patients cannot be expected to time their medical needs to suit the facilities management of the centre. The Primary Care Centres were supposed to take pressure off the hospitals.

“This an even more acute issue for my constituents while we wait on plans for the new A&E at University Hospital Galway and the new 50-bed unit at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, to be expedited.

“The Primary Care Centre operators are dictating when these facilities open and close. Their operation should be patient-driven.

“The HSE nationally, which signed the contracts, needs to get back in charge and do so as a matter of urgency. It is not fair on the local HSE management who are having to deal with this situation.

“Too much public money has been invested in these centres. It is the public that should be determining when the centres open, not private companies.

“This affects Primary Care Centres nationally. The HSE should intervene to ensure that our services follow the needs of patients and not the administration of buildings,” Minister Canney added.

Tuam Primary Care Centre opened for services in December 2017. The 2,500sqm facility was part of a 14-project Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme to provide Primary Care Centres around Ireland.

Minister Simon Harris was on site to open the facility and it was stated that it would be a ‘one stop shop’ for medical services in the town.

Apart from the Primary Care Centre, the immediate area is the location for the ambulance base, while there are also plans to provide a new mental health centre and a 50-bed community nursing home.

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