ON THE MOVE? Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, on a visit to the Covid testing centre at MacHale Park last summer, in conversation with Peter O’Malley, Clinical Lead Co-ordinator. The HSE plans to move the test centre to the Breaffy Woods Hotel. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
CASTLEBAR county councillor Ger Deere has expressed concerns about the decision to move the Covid-19 testing facilities from MacHale Park to the Breaffy Sports Arena.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday evening (Monday), Cllr Deere said that the extra traffic in the area would increase the chance of an accident occurring on the N60 between Castlebar and Balla.
The arena is currently being used to administer Covid-19 vaccinations to those between five and 15 years of age and booster doses to those over the age of 16.
A campaign has been underway for several years to have the speed limit reduced along the road, which runs through Breaffy village and past the Breaffy House and Breaffy Woods hotels.
“With the booster and kids going out to for their first injection it’s very busy at the moment,” said Cllr Deere. “Putting the testing centre out there is only going to add to the whole thing. There’s roadworks going on there now in between Westport and Turlough, so there’s awful traffic congestion and a lot of build-up of traffic. It’s a notorious, dangerous spot.
“I think it’s the wrong time to be adding volumes of traffic onto an already dangerous spot,” he added.
The Mayo News first reported in December that the Covid-19 testing facility at MacHale Park was to move to Breaffy Sports arena. It is planned that the facility will be fully operational by the end of January. Cllr Deere said that venues like community centres or the Royal Theatre in Castlebar should be looked at as alternatives.
The Fine Gael councillor has made representations on the issue to the HSE but has yet to receive a response.
“I feel there’s loads of other venues. I know they have to move out of MacHale Road. The residents had to put up with a lot over the last two years,” he said.
“It was a great facility but it was causing a lot of disturbance on MacHale Road with deliveries and backup of traffic, even right around the town. I think there’s other locations they could look at, if not in Castlebar maybe in other towns around the place ... to make it easier to attend them, and [for] health and safety.
“We’ve a large number of car parks around in a lot of areas. That should be looked at before they decide to go out to Breaffy.
“The staff in the vaccination centre and the testing centre have done outstanding work over the last while. If we’re not going to see the same volumes [of people presenting for testing and vaccination] it should be put in smaller venues around the county to save people travelling,” he added.
The HSE did not respond for a request for comment at the time of going to press.