Four years after the Government unveiled plans to build 14 primary care centres, work is finally set to begin after agreement was reached with the European Investment Bank (EIB) for a €70m, 25-year loan.
Financing from the EIB represents 49.5% of the total investment cost. Japanese and German backers, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and German insurance company Talanx Asset Management, will provide the balance.
The new centres will be located in areas of rural and urban deprivation, with seven going to HSE West, four in HSE South, two in Dublin North East, and one in Dublin Mid-Leinster.
The locations were selected from an original list of 35 which included two centres added by then health minister James Reilly in his own constituency, leading to a row and ultimately the resignation of then junior health minister Róisín Shortall.
Yesterday, Ms Shortall said details of a cost-benefit analysis should be made public to make sure the agreement, based on public-private partnership (PPP), represented value for the taxpayer.
“The history of PPPs is not great in this country. We’ve certainly paid over the odds in the past when it came to building schools and roads.
“I hope the appropriate cost-benefit analysis has been done. We need to see the details and if they stack up and if they represent value-for-money,” Ms Shortall said.
University College Cork health economist Brian Turner said foreign investors would “obviously be looking for a return” on their money.
“So the question is: Will it add to the cost of visiting the GP?”
The centres will act as “one-stop-shops” where patients can visit their GP and access various therapies.
Some locations will include dental, community mental health, children and adolescent mental health services and early intervention teams.
Health Minister Simon Harris said his ultimate goal was “to ensure that people get the care they need as close to home as possible, and have access to a greater range of health and social care services in their community”.
The EIB investment is a first in healthcare in Ireland and is also the first in this country to be backed by a guarantee under the European Fund for Strategic Investments initiative.
The project is being delivered by the consortium comprised of Prime, Balfour Beatty and its investors Prime UK Holdings Ltd and HICL Infrastructure Company Ltd.
Onsite activity is due to commence on Monday.
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