Health Minister "strongly supportive" of proposed Sláintecare health reforms

Simon Harris says he has taken a number of 'key steps' to prepare for major healthcare reform

Health Minister "strongly supportive" of proposed Sláintecare health reforms

Simon Harris. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Health Minister Simon Harris has said he is taking 'concrete steps' to implement a major reform of the health service.

The Sláintecare 10-year plan was produced by a cross-party committee.

The plan aims to radically transform the health service and establish a universal, single-tiered service which is delivered on medical need and not on ability to pay.

It is expected to require an investment of around €5.8bn over the next decade.

Minister Harris today announced three 'key steps' have been taken as part of the Government's efforts to start implementing a full health reform plan.

The measures include a full independent review of the impact of separating private practice from the public hospital system, with Dr Donal de Buitléir to chair the review group.

A public consultation has also been announced, focusing on the future alignment of hospitals groups and community health organisations across the country.

Finally, Minister Harris told his Cabinet colleagues he intends to establish an independent board to 'strengthen the oversight and performance of the HSE' - although noted that legislation will be required before that can progress.

"I hope to have a board, with very strong competencies across key areas, established in 2018," he explained.

'Investing in implementation structures'

Minister Harris said: "We are in the process of establishing a Programme Office to drive reforms arising from Sláintecare.  As part of Budget 2018, I have secured €1m in funding to establish the office, and preparations to recruit a lead executive are underway.  

"Previous plans for health reform have tended to come unstuck in the implementation phase, which is why I am investing at this point in the implementation structures."

He added: "I will be updating the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health on the progress we are making in November and I will be coming back to Government again in December, as we build momentum for health service reform.”

It's estimated removing private care from public hospitals would lead to a shortfall of €900 million in funding for the hospitals.

The Health Minister says Sláintecare called for that to happen - but stressed that the plans need much more detail:

Meanwhile, Social Democrats TD Roisín Shortall - who chaired the Oireachtas committee responsible for the Sláintecare report - welcomed today's announcements.

She observed: “Mr de Buitlier brings enormous experience to the role and I look forward to learning more about the terms of reference of the expert group, which must be enabled to carry out its work with full independence in the public interest.

“The separation of the public and private health systems is core to the Sláintecare vision of a properly functioning national health service that treats everyone promptly and on the basis of medical need, not ability to pay."