Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Reverend Father and Public Representatives. I am delighted to be here today and I would like to thank Tony O’Brien for the invitation to officially open the new expanded Mountbellew Primary Care Centre. I am here representing Minister Simon Harris who had to cancel late last night.

I would like to start off by acknowledging all of you here today, particularly Frank Murphy and Tony Canavan and your HSE colleagues and those in Pinegrove Medical Centre – Dr. Matt Linehan and Dr. Joan Kearney.

Events like these do not magically fall into place and I am aware that Trish (Linehan) and Aideen (O’Neill) assisted greatly with organising matters. I would also like to thank Frank for his warm welcome and the previous speakers, Tony and Matt.

Modern well-designed buildings for community healthcare – such as Mountbellew – through the range of services they can provide support the aim of delivering better care close to home in communities and to keep people who don’t need to be in an acute setting out of hospital.

I am pleased to say that Mountbellew Primary Care Centre is one of the total 104 Primary Care Centres which are operating nationwide.
The 12th of October 2016 marked a significant day for Mountbellew when the centre opened for services. I understand that the HSE hosted a public viewing day of the new facility before the opening and I am sure those of you who took the opportunity to visit were very impressed.

I am very much looking forward to my tour of the centre and to be equally impressed. The development of Primary Care Centres to accommodate Primary Care Teams and, where possible, GPs in one location is an important enabler of more integrated primary care service delivery. Pinegrove Medical Centre being co-located on the site is allowing patients to access both GP and HSE services within the one building.

The opportunities I have to meet Primary Care staff and to see first-hand where you deliver your invaluable services are always very important to me. That is why I am delighted to be here today to see how the multi-disciplinary teams working from this Centre will make such a positive impact for patients in this locality.

I am aware that a range of services are being delivered in the centre. I understand that there is a public health nursing service providing a postnatal service to mothers and babies and child screening. Furthermore, a specialist public health nurse, who is the Coordinator for Services for Children with Complex Nursing Needs across Galway City and County, visits the centre to deliver the services.

Clinical care, screening and support to the elderly and frail elderly are also provided both within the primary care centre and the community by the public health nurses. Wound dressing, including Doppler clinics, are also being delivered from the specially designed clinical room.

I note with interest that the public health nursing service in the centre also provides an oncology service for patients who are undergoing acute systemic cancer therapy. This service, now taking place in the community, is very significant in that it eases the burden on patients who previously would have had to travel to University Hospital Galway or Portiuncula University Hospital, Ballinasloe.

This Community Oncology Nursing Programme for Public Health Nurses was introduced under the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP). The programme was established primarily to meet the health care needs of patients who are coping with serious illness by ensuring that safe, high quality nursing care is provided in the most appropriate setting for them.

This Programme responds to the fact that cancer care can be integrated between the hospital and community care settings and is an excellent example of how an interdisciplinary team approach can meet the complex health needs of patients with a serious illness.

Services in a local setting are very important. A speech and language therapist for adults and a speech and language therapist for children are delivering services across North and East Galway, removing the requirement for patients to travel to Ballinasloe Health Centre, as was previously the case. This is a very positive development as parents and their children can access this service within a local setting.
I understand that clinical rooms here in the Centre are used for clinics by other services including Child Psychology, Addiction Counselling, Traveller Health Social Worker and the Community Heart Failure Service. The Adult Mental Health Team and Psychiatry for Later Life Team also see patients on site.

Delivering a range of services to and in the community is very important. The community ethos can so often be underestimated and the work that goes on locally in communities goes unrecognised. Sporting and cultural activities in any community can have a direct impact on the health of its residents and, hopefully, reduce the need for some to actually require services from these centres.

In fact, earlier this week, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, Minister of State, Catherine Byrne and Minster Harris announced Healthy Ireland Fund investments to help people across the country get more active. The range of initiatives being supported will have a really positive impact at community level. They reinforce the focus on prevention and supporting and empowering families and communities to improve their own health and wellbeing.
I am told that there is a Men’s Shed in Ballygar. I can tell you that Ireland was the first country to adopt a Men’s Health Policy and, following a review in 2014, the National Men’s Health Action Plan was launched late last year by the Health Service Executive. This action plan supports the work of my Department in implementing Healthy Ireland which is a priority for the Government. The need for a continued focus on Men’s Health is grounded in the evidence that men die younger than women and have higher death rates for the leading causes of death including accidents and suicide.
Research suggests that compared to women, men have limited contact with GP’s are reluctant users of primary care services and often present late in the course of illness. This is a trend we need to reverse over the coming years to improve the health and wellbeing of Irish men and your local Men’s Shed can have an active role in achieving this.

Integrated Care
There is no doubt that we need to further develop primary and community care and have a hospital system that optimises resources to deliver better care for patients.

All components of the system need to work in a better, more integrated and coordinated way – we need a new model of care, which is better suited to the needs of our population, now, and into the future.

Increasing integration between primary and secondary care is a key health priority in the Programme for a Partnership Government. The overall aim is to embed a model of integrated care that will treat people in their communities at the lowest level of complexity, will ensure acute services are efficient and effective, and will provide clear pathways back to the community where the appropriate health and social care supports will be available, all of this being underpinned by robust governance and financial structures.

I am delighted to see that one of the key focuses of the management team in this CHO has been the integration of care across the various Divisions and also with the acute sector. Despite the many challenges that were faced throughout 2016, the levels of delayed discharge were maintained relatively low in each of hospitals in counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.
Primary Care/Sláintecare
Primary Care is critical to the future of health care in Ireland and this was recognised in the Sláintecare report published by the Committee on the Future of Health Care which supports the Government’s commitment for a decisive shift to primary care.

The Minister is giving this Report detailed consideration in consultation with the Department, the HSE and others, and he will bring proposals to Government before the end of the year including a roadmap for implementation.

Concluding Remarks
I think of Primary Care as ‘better care, close to home, which can deliver better outcomes for patients’. A strong primary care sector provides access to joined-up service provision to help people to live longer, manage chronic diseases better and reduce the impact of ill health from both a social and employment perspective.

The continued development of Primary Care Centres such as this here in Mountbellew will make a community-based healthcare programme a reality for many other rural and urban communities across the State.

I am delighted now to officially open Mountbellew Primary Care centre and cut the ribbon. I wish you all the best for the future.