I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for selecting this Topical Issue matter, which is very important to the people of Celbridge and the surrounding area. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, for coming in. I am disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Harris, who has responsibility for this area, is not here, especially given that he is such an advocate for primary care. He has spoken in this House on many occasions about the good services that primary care operates. On this occasion, I will highlight the disappointment where he has promised a service for at least four years and has pulled back from that commitment. The Minister visited this primary care centre and was advocating how good it was to have it as a centre of excellence with all of the appropriate facilities and services, but he is now rowing back from that, which is very disappointing.
I will highlight the fact that since the service is not currently available in Celbridge, my home town, people have to travel to Naas for this service. It is approximately 30 km away and Celbridge has no direct public transport link to it. I have been raising this issue for the past 12 months. I will walk the Minister of State through what has happened to date with regard to different correspondence. This has been as a result of parliamentary questions that I have tabled and general representations to the HSE. In January 2019, I raised the issue with the HSE, the Minister and the Department. There was concern that the dental service was being lost from Celbridge to Maynooth. The HSE confirmed to me in a letter, dated 28 January, that Celbridge primary care, a very large, modern primary care unit, was going to have dental services set up in it for Celbridge. That was going to become a centre of excellence for Celbridge and the surrounding area. The dental services for Maynooth were going to be relocated to Celbridge. That was all very positive since we were getting information into the public domain about what was happening and what the plan was for this much-needed service for the general area.
In April, I followed it up again and I got another confirmation from the HSE that the new dental clinic in the Celbridge primary care centre was still a priority and was progressing, which was all good news. In August of this year, I asked a parliamentary question and the HSE confirmed that works for the dental clinic in Celbridge had gone to tender. The tenders were being reviewed and the HSE was not able to give me a timeline for when this project was going to commence and be completed, but it was all positive. Every answer is subject to funding, which we know, but it was still being progressed. This is a large new primary care centre in Celbridge. Many primary care providers do not have the needed services or facilities and many only work at a quarter or half rate. It is important to bring in the needed front-line services there through the public health system. This was all positive and was being accepted.
In October, I was disappointed to get correspondence to tell me that the works would not commence and would not happen until 2023. Everything had changed and had gone back by four years. This was very disappointing, not just for me but for the people of Celbridge and the surrounding area. There was promise after promise that this dental clinic would come to the Celbridge primary care centre, having been identified as being much needed and urgently required. It was to become the centre of excellence for the area. The Minister of State can understand our disappointment and frustration. I have outlined in writing everything that I have said about the full sequence of events from the past 12 months.
I have a few statistics to put on the record. The population of Celbridge is 22,500. Land is owned and planning permission has been granted for 3,500 houses. We have no direct public transport access from Celbridge to Naas. People cannot afford taxis and have no way to get there. This situation is completely unacceptable and it needs urgent attention. I hope that we will be able to progress it today.