13 Aug 2022

Offaly councillor blasts HSE as fight for Birr primary care centre continues

Offaly councillor blasts HSE as fight for Birr primary care centre continues

Cllr Clare Claffey with Social Democrats Co-leader and Health spokesperson Roisin Shortall TD

Cllr Clare Claffey has strongly criticised continued delays in the provision of a desperately needed new primary care centre for Birr.

The Social Democrats councillor for the Birr Municipal District has started a petition to urge the Minister for Health and the HSE to take immediate action on developing a primary care centre for Birr without further delay.

Reacting to the news that the HSE has decided not to proceed with the proposed development of the area known as the “Rectory Field” in Birr as a location for the proposed Birr Primary Care Centre, Claffey said: “For years the HSE have been informing the people of Birr that they are committed to providing a Primary Care Centre in the town and to date nothing has happened. This news has set us back to square one. Tullamore has a Primary care centre, the Primary Care Centre in Banagher is near completion so why is Birr no further on?”

Cllr Claffey said “now we hear that the HSE is considering three alternative sites in Birr for the centre, and dealing with three private developers. Mary Butler TD Minister of State at the Department of Health stated recently in the Dáil that the primary care centre will be operational by the third quarter of 2022. While it may be good news that a centre will eventually be completed, I am shocked and disappointed at the poor communication between the HSE and local elected representatives, they seem to be intent on fuelling rumour rather than communicating with all the elected representatives of the people of Birr in a professional and timely manner.”

Claffey continued “While I’m delighted that local Oireachtas members have started to recognise the urgency of the situation with regard to primary health care in Birr, I would ask where their voices were when Midoc was closed in Birr, and where their voices have been for the last two years as the people of Birr desperately needed support. The people of Birr are crying out for a modern Primary Care Centre now – the GPs services are already under serious pressure and who knows how many more GPs we will lose before Autumn 2022. I am calling on the HSE to place more urgency on the development of this centre, and on improving the delivery of primary healthcare in Birr, both during office hours and also Out-of-Hours”.

In a written response to a parliamentary question, tabled by co-leader of the Social Democrats Roisin Shortall TD in July 2020, the HSE made a commitment that space will be provided for an Out-Of-Hours GP service in a planned new Primary Healthcare Centre for Birr. Deputy Shortall - the Social Democrats Health spokesperson - had tabled the question at the request of Cllr Clare Claffey, who represents the Birr area, and who has been lobbying for the reinstatement of an out of hours GP service for the town for over two years.

Cllr Claffey said “there are encouraging signals now that there could be a diagnostic hub (X-ray) in the new Primary Care Centre, something I have been calling for since I started this campaign. Inclusion of an X-ray facility would be hugely important to the town of Birr and the surrounding south and west Offaly area, and would also help to take the pressure off emergency services in Tullamore. But we need a suitable site that all are happy with to be selected as a matter of urgency. The development must be started soon, and we need the HSE to start communicating with us properly on what is happening at each stage.”

The new petition, which can be found HERE has already amassed almost 400 signatures, and Claffey says that she will be contacting Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in the coming weeks to ensure he is aware of the strength of feeling on this issue, and to ask for his support.

She said: “We have all become increasingly aware in the past months of the vital importance of local GP services, and how they desperately need our support. I’m pledging to continue this support into the future, and I will not stop fighting until we have a primary care centre in Birr that we can all be proud of with a functioning Out of Hours GP service attached.”

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