Government plan to implement Sláintecare is ‘inherently flawed’, say consultants

Minister for Health Simon Harris says the cost of the reforms will depend on talks

The Government has not revealed how much it will cost to implement its 10-year plan to reform the Irish healthcare system.

 

The Government has not revealed how much it will cost to implement its ten-year plan to reform the Irish healthcare system.

Minister for Health Simon Harris produced the implementation strategy for Sláintecare on Wednesday morning containing 106 actions to be taken to reform the Irish health service.

However, the plan does not contain costings for the individual actions or for the overall proposals.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the Sláintecare report was “inherently flawed as it fails to provide sufficient solutions for the biggest capacity deficits in our acute hospitals”.

In a statement, the organisation said: “There is a critical shortage of hospital beds, consultants, other frontline staff and equipment which is impeding our ability to care for patients. The proposal to introduce 2,600 new beds over the next 15 years is insufficient and fails to immediately address the very urgent needs of patients who need access to care in our acute hospitals.”

Mr Harris said the cost of Sláintecare, which sought to end the two-tier nature of the Irish healthcare system, would be dependant on “very serious” contractual negotiations that will occur over time.

The Government is committed to the plan and to providing additional monies that will be required, the Minister added.

The plan will take 10 years to implement and will require the support of political parties and those who work in the health service, Mr Harris said.

The report reforms including changing the GP contract, investment in eHealth, tackling long waiting list by investing in the National Treatment Purchase Fund and increasing bed capacity in public hospitals.

The report also contains a commitment to examine the introduction of legislation for “evidence-based waiting lists guarantee”. This would amount to a commitment in law that no patient should wait over a certain period of time for procedures.

Mr Harris said: “Let’s measure, let’s hold the Government, Sláintecare and the HSE to account when we reach those waiting lists targets. How long should you have to wait, how many are waiting longer than that acceptable time and how are we going to fix it?”

The Minister accepted healthcare workers may have reform fatigue but urged them to have faith in this plan.

Ministers have kept “chopping and changing plans” over the years but this is the plan that has the support of each political party and will not change.

“This is the vision. If you are working in the health service today, if you are a nurse or a doctor or a healthcare assistant, if you are working in our primary care or caring for the elderly and you are working bloody hard and you are wondering if there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“This is that. This is how we are going to get there. We are not going to get there overnight. We are going to work with you, we are going to engage with you.”

A crucial decision on removing private practice from public hospitals has yet to be taken. This is being examined by an expert group which will report by the end of the year.

Mr Harris said it is not equitable or fair that access to services is based on the ability to pay. Ireland is an outlier on this issue and has convinced itself it is normal, the Minister added.