Reilly Defends Action Despite Shortall Resignation

Following the resignation of junior minister Roisin Shortall in protest at changes made to rules on picking locations for medical care centres, health minister James Reilly has defended his controversial decision.

He is doing so as Labour TDs warn they want an assurance he will co-operate fully with Ms Shortall's replacement, Alex White.

The minister revealed that the two towns in his constituency he added to a list of centres were classified "high priority" by the previous Fianna Fail government.

He also defended his selection of 35 locations for developing primary care centres -- expanded from Ms Shortall's list of 20.

Expressing his "gratitude to Minister Shortall" for her work, he said, however, if he was to use her criteria of deprivation only, "it would have a very, very strange effect".

In a statement last night, Dr Reilly said he was looking forward to working with new Junior Minister Alex White and Junior Minister for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch to reform the health service.

He said some of the 15 he added were classified in 2007, under the Fianna Fail government, as "high priority" for building centres, including Balbriggan and Swords in his Dublin North constituency.

But Dr Reilly said when the selection criteria changed "they got swept from high priority to low priority".

"I stand over the manner in which this was done; I stand over the criteria which I used," he said.

Dr Reilly said he changed the criteria for selection, from being based solely on the level of poverty in an area, to include:

• Existing health facilities.

• Accessibility.

• Patient-to-GP population ratios.

• Pressure on health services.

• Funding options.


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