Planning refusal 'severe blow to every dialysis patient in the county'
Minister of State Paul Kehoe said it is time for political intervention in the fiasco that has arisen over the opening of a satellite dialysis unit in Wexford.
Deputy Kehoe voiced his 'extreme frustration' at Wexford County Council's decision to refuse planning permission for the unit at the former Acorn Fashions factory Whitemill Industrial Estate. The unit was first identified as an urgently-needed facility in the county seven years ago.
'This outcome is a severe blow to every dialysis patient in County Wexford and I am extremely disappointed by how this situation has been handled by the HSE,' he said.
The Fine Gael TD said it was clear from reading the planning decision that the proposed site was never a viable option for the unit, based on its current industrial usage.
He said a number of more suitable alternative locations in close proximity to the proposed development were suggested during the pre-planning process.
'Up to now, this has been a totally independent process without political intervention, between the HSE, the tenderer and Wexford County Council as is right and proper.'
'However, I am meeting with the Minister for Health Simon Harris to seek intervention in this matter and to call on the HSE to find a resolution in the immediate term,' said Deputy Kehoe.
'It is not acceptable that people undergoing dialysis may have to continue to travel to Waterford because of the mis-handling of a planning application and it is imperative that the HSE takes immediate action to get this project back on track in the right location,' he said.
The Minister of State made enquiries to the HSE about the project in early July and received a reply from General Manager Richard Dooley on July 6 saying the HSE was committed to and progressing the development of a Contracted Satellite Haemodialysis Unit in Wexford and was aiming to have it in place by early 2017.
He explained that a HSE Tender Evalutation Group consisting of consultants, nursing management, procurement and national renal office representatives was established and a tender advertised.
The tender process was conducted in two stages. Stage 1 invited companies to submit details of locations for consideration. Site visits with potential service providers were undertaken and a number of suitable sites identified in Wexford.
Stage 2 required potential service providers to submit tenders relating to life cycle costs and technical/clinical aspects of the service to be provided. Tenders were returned to the HSE at the end of May 2015.
Mr. Dooley explained that following an exensive process, the evaluation of the tender for Wexford was completed in September 2015 and a contract approval request was later approved by the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE South/South West Hospital Group and the HSE Leadership Team.
The HSE and the nominated tenderer Fresenius Medical Care Ireland Limited were now working together 'to ensure the planned service implementation plan is progressed as expeditiously as possible', he said at the time.
'This period allows for commissioning and implementation which require a number of steps - such as planning permission, conversion of building and staff recruitment'.
Mr. Dooley said that in this regard 'some planning issues' had arisen between Fresenius and Wexford County Council and 'these are currently being worked through'.
He said it was anticipated that the unit should be operational by the first quarter of 2017.
A month later, Wexford County Council refused planning permission at the Acorn Fashions site.