Cabinet to be presented with plan for regional health areas

New bodies considered essential to Sláintecare reform agenda, first announced in 2019

The regional health areas will mean the alignment of health services in hospitals and in the community. File photograph: The Irish Times

The regional health areas will mean the alignment of health services in hospitals and in the community. File photograph: The Irish Times

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Plans to devolve the running of health services to six regional health areas (RHAs) are to come before Cabinet on Tuesday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is bringing a memo to Government for the implementation of RHAs, which will have responsibility for all health services in their respective areas, including budgets.

The new bodies, seen as essential to the Sláintecare reform programme, were first announced in mid-2019, but were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and disagreements over Sláintecare.

The RHAs will mean the alignment of health services in hospitals and in the community. At present, six hospital groups, nine community healthcare organisations along with Children’s Health Ireland are not geographically aligned.

While having devolved responsibility for decision making, the RHAs will be required to follow national policies, standards and strategies.

The Health Service Executive will continue to exist, but a “lean” form is promised, with less management and bureaucracy.

The Department of Health plans to complete design of the new bodies in collaboration with the HSE this year. They will be introduced on a phased basis in 2023 and are expected to be fully operational at the start of 2024.

The six areas

The six areas remain as outlined by former minister for health Simon Harris in 2019.

  • Area A takes in the northeast, including north Dublin, Meath, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan.
  • Area B comprises Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois, Kildare and parts of Dublin and Wicklow.
  • Area C focuses on the south and southeast, including Tipperary south, Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford, Wicklow and part of south Dublin.
  • Area D consists of counties Kerry and Cork.
  • Area E is made up of Limerick, Clare and part of Tipperary.
  • Area F includes Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo and Galway.

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