Green light today for six hospital groups

Hospital plan involves creation of tiered structure with four ‘super-hospitals’ at top

Minister for Health James Reilly will today announce what he claims is the most fundamental reform of Irish hospitals in decades

Minister for Health James Reilly will today announce what he claims is the most fundamental reform of Irish hospitals in decades

 

Minister for Health James Reilly will today announce what he claims is the most fundamental reform of Irish hospitals in decades after Cabinet signs off on the reorganisation of the system into six independent groups.

The Government is also expected to give the green light today to the launch of a full parliamentary inquiry into the 2008 banking collapse, the factors that caused it, and the then administration’s response to it.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will seek approval from Cabinet colleagues at today’s weekly meeting of senior Ministers to publish the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Procedures and Privileges) Bill 2013.

The legislation will give powers to the Oireachtas to initiate its own public inquiries within the limits of the judgement of the High Court in the Abbeylara case (a challenge against an Oireachtas inquiry into the shooting by gardaí of an armed man in Co Longford).

The hospital plan involves the creation of a tiered structure with four “super-hospitals” at the top – St James’s and Beaumont in Dublin, Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Galway.

Beneath this will be a layer of other large teaching hospitals including the Mater hospital, Tallaght Hospital, the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick and Waterford Regional Hospital.

“Many plans to reform our hospital system have been made before and many reports are gathering dust. But this one will be different because the Government is determined that it is implemented,” a spokesman for Dr Reilly said last night.

The creation of a national strategic advisory group to drive the proposal forward will also be announced today, as well as the appointment of a leading medical figure to chair this group.

The creation of six groups centred on large academic teaching hospitals was proposed by a working group chaired by Prof John Higgins last year. His report has not been published but the proposals have been fine-tuned since then, with over 100 meetings with interested parties around the country.

The plan was delayed by months over opposition in the southeast to a perceived demotion of Waterford Regional Hospital, which is being placed in the southern groups with hospitals in Cork, Kerry and Tipperary. However, significant concessions have been made to campaigners in Waterford, including the provision of 24/7 cardiology instead of the current five days a week service, the retention of oncology services and academic posts for some consultants in the hospital.

The change to group structures will mean that administrative and other services will eventually be shared between all members of a group, and there will be greater movement of staff and specialities between hospitals. The pooling of staff resources is expected to make it easier for the HSE to shorten excessive working times for junior doctors.

Small hospitals
While concerns have been expressed about the future of small hospitals in some parts of the country, Dr Reilly is expected to confirm that no hospital will close and that smaller institutions will gain business by being designated as centres for carrying out standard medical procedures.

On the banking inquiry, the most likely form of investigation will be of an “inquire, record and report” nature, where the evidence of witnesses will be recorded and summarised, without any conclusive findings being made.