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Wednesday, 23rd September 2020

No plans for a pop-up Covid Test Centre in Drogheda

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Deputies Ged Nash and Fergus O'Dowd.

Demand in any area is subject to ongoing review by the HSE

When local Deputies Fergus O’Dowd and Ged Nash raised their concerns about the lack of a Covid Test Centre in Drogheda last night in the Dáil they were told that there are no plans for one at present.

Deputy Ged Nash said that 1,307 people had signed a petition that he launched several days ago which, he said shows the depth of feeling in the area and the need for a testing centre in Ireland’s largest town.

“I first made the case for a Covid-19 testing centre in Drogheda back in April but, since then, those calls have fallen on deaf ears” he said. “That is not good enough.

“The system seems to be obsessed with using county boundaries. County boundaries are anachronisms when dealing with a challenge like this. They are certainly an anachronism when one is dealing with a nascent city like Drogheda spread across two local authority areas.”

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He said that people in Drogheda have no option other than to get on public transport to go up the motorway to have a test done in Dundalk, putting themselves and their fellow passengers at risk.

“They do not want to have to do that. They want to have a safe and accessible test in their own area. If the will is there, as we have seen with the pop-up Covid test centres elsewhere, then this can be done in Drogheda. The truth is that Drogheda needs a Covid-19 test centre and it needs it now.”

Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan TD said the Community testing centres in Slane and Dundalk are fully operational seven days a week serving the combined population of Louth and Meath and that at present, there are no plans for a pop-up testing centre in Drogheda.

However, he said that referral demand in any area is subject to ongoing review by the HSE and evaluated against available capacity. The HSE advises that current demand nationally and in the Dundalk and Slane centres is being met.

Deputy O'Dowd said that it was clear to him that a decision has been made to close the Slane centre and move it to Dunshaughlin or Ashbourne and to move the Dundalk centre to Ardee because it is equidistant from the two big towns of Drogheda and Dundalk.

“But that means more people will have to travel farther” he said…it does not make sense to have a full-time testing centre in east Meath, one in Drogheda, one in Ardee and one in Dundalk.

He said that what the Minister of State wsa saying that as demand increases, referral demand will be reviewed was to be welcomed. “I believe we will have - we deserve and must have - a pop-up centre in Drogheda, particularly in view of the fact of the closure of the one in Slane.”

Deputy Ged Nash said the idea that the Dundalk testing centre would be moved to Ardee misses the point entirely.

“That is splitting the difference” he said, “for the sake of good planning we should be making sure that the response is where the service is needed, which in this case is Drogheda.”

“… Being quick on local testing is critical to beating this condition and making sure that our economy remains open, that people stay in work and that businesses continue to thrive under difficult circumstances. Far too many people are waiting for days for tests while their families remain at home, not at school, and partners and so on have to absent themselves from the workplace.”

Deputy Feighan said that these issues will be reviewed, and that he will bring the Deputies' concerns to the Minister's attention.

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