Diggers and builders are in action on the St Fintan's Hospital health campus in Portlaoise as work begins on phase one of what could be a significant expansion of HSE community health services delivered in the Laois town.
A green area which runs parallel to the Dublin Road is being cleared to facilitate a car park. Work is also scheduled to begin on refurbishment of part of the former psychiatric hospital. Two extensions are also being built in a courtyard behind the entrance to the main building.
However, a masterplan submitted to Laois County Council has outlined that the work is part of what could be a multi-phased expansion of services on the site. Central to the project is the building of a new Primary Care centre.
Planning has not yet been sought from Laois County Council but the local authority has been put on notice by the HSE that a new Primary Care Centre and other developments could be in the pipeline.
The HSE submitted the masterplan to the Council as part of a planning application last year for the work which has just started. SEE MORE BELOW PICTURE.
The HSE confirmed that work is underway on the first part of the plan.
"Construction works have commenced on-site at St Fintan’s campus on a project which involves a new build element to and refurbishment works of the northern aspect of the main building to accommodate Tusla services and Primary Care Services.
The anticipated construction programme is approximately 24 months," said a statement.
Laois County Council granted permission to phase one last year. The HSE's application was for a two-storey extension within the existing internal courtyard on the north side of the main building.
A new single-storey plant room within the same courtyard will also be built. It also wants to carry out general refurbishment works within the north side of the main building on both ground and first floor. New entrance doors and side windows.
St Fintan's was originally a psychiatric hospital. While mental health services continue to be provided at the campus, it now accommodates other services. An out-of-hours GP service and addiction services are provided at a new building which opened this year.