Hospitals give broad welcome to new reforms

Proposals to create academic health centres could streamline healthcare

Beaumont Hospital: part of the Dublin North East group

Beaumont Hospital: part of the Dublin North East group


Hospitals and medical experts around the State last night broadly welcomed the plans by Minister for Health James Reilly to re-organise the country’s hospitals into regional groups.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)’s teaching hospitals academic network – encompassing Beaumont Hospital, Connolly Hospital, the Cavan-Monaghan Hospital Group, the Louth-Meath Hospital Group and the Rotunda Hospital – said the move would create six “academic health centres” in Ireland.

They described these as alliances of educational and healthcare institutions that combine three major activities: health professional education, research and patient care.

“This is an important development for Ireland and will lead to improvements in patient care, increase the research output of Irish medical schools, and facilitate the rapid deployment of new discoveries in patient care,” said the group.

RCSI chief executive Prof Cathal Kelly said the reforms were an “important initiative” in the development of healthcare services.

“We look forward to working even more closely with our hospital partners for the benefit of patients, clinicians and health professions in training.”

Beaumont Hospital chief executive Liam Duffy said the hospital had “substantial groundwork” already in place based on its work over recent years to form an academic health centre with Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown and the RCSI.

“We expect that work will be of significant benefit in building out the new group structure to meet the health needs of the population in our network. We look forward to engaging positively with our group colleagues at the earliest opportunity.”

Trinity Health Ireland – comprising St James’s Hospital, Tallaght Hospital and Trinity College Dublin – said the announcement would benefit healthcare in Ireland. The group said it was “already working to integrate high quality patient care and research excellence”.

The six constituent hospitals referred to as the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said the move represented “the first important steps” in the transition process which will eventually lead to the establishment of a national system of hospital trusts in Ireland.

A spokesman for the Irish Hospital Consultants Association however said it was seeking a meeting with Dr Reilly and the health services management on the organisational arrangements and the resourcing of the plans.

“The key issue is how resources and personnel are to be configured allowing the better delivery of health care to patients in a very difficult health environment,” he said.

Universities linked with the groups were warm in their welcome of the reforms, as NUI Galway president Dr Jim Browne said he was “convinced” the plan was “the best way forward in the interests of patients and the other stakeholders” in the health system.

“An important feature of the new hospital groups is the integration of teaching and research with clinical practice. This is a welcome development which will serve patients well while also promoting innovation in the health sector.”

UCC president Dr Michael Murphy said the move was an example of strategic collaboration of “mutual benefit” to both Cork and Waterford.

Political opposition parties however were critical, with Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher calling for “clarity” in terms of what would happen to services in a number of smaller specific hospitals.