Another high-profile resignation from Sláintecare implementation advisory council

Prof Anthony O’Connor’s resignation letter claims the original culture of Slaintecare has been ‘bulldozed’

Another leading figure in the Sláintecare reform plan for the health service has resigned.

With a broadside against the “destructive” and “contemptuous” management of the process by the Department of Health, gastroenterologist Prof Anthony O’Connor stepped down on Thursday from the Sláintecare implementation advisory council.

The Tallaght hospital-based medic claims the original culture of Sláintecare has been “bulldozed” and the replacement chosen by Government is “incongruous”, or incompatible with the principles of the project.

Prof O’Connor tendered his resignation in a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.


He declined to elaborate on the reason for his resignation when contacted on Thursday.

However, his resignation letter, seen by The Irish Times, predicts the plan is “doomed to fail” and that the promised devolution of powers to regions and communities “will not happen”.

His departure follows a meeting of the advisory council with HSE chief executive Paul Reid and Department of Health secretary general Robert Watt on Wednesday.

This was the first between council members and the health officials since the resignations earlier this month of Sláintecare executive director Laura Magahy and chairman Prof Tom Keane over the slow pace of the plan to overhaul the health service.

Prof O’Connor says he has come to the reluctant conclusion that Prof Keane’s analysis was correct, and that “fundamental failures of governance, accountability and commitment continue to make any chance of success impossible”.

“It is now clear to me that the culture of collaboration, respect, community and engagement that had been envisaged by the Sláintecare report has been bulldozed.

“What has been chosen by Government to replace it is entirely incongruous with the principles of the project.”

Having no experience of healthcare is not an insurmountable barrier to leading a project like Sláintecare, he says.

However, “a culture of being at best indifferent to and at worst contemptuous of those who do, including managers, clinicians and patients as we bore witness to yesterday in our meeting with your secretary general, is doomed to fail”.

“Unfortunately it is abundantly clear to me that not all of the people who have come to occupy mission-critical roles in the project have the skills and values, or model the professionalism and behaviours that are fit for purpose for this task.

“In my assessment some of the values and behaviours they do possess and display are likely to be fatally destructive of it.”

He predicted “some iteration” of Sláintecare will eventually emerge, but will bear “little or no relation” to what was originally proposed.

Dr O’Connor said he was resigning with immediate effect as “our advice is no longer required, valued or respected”.

The council’s term of office runs until October 24th, although members have sought an extension to Christmas.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.