Paul Reid defends HSE’s commitment to Sláintecare reform plan

HSE chief unaware Magahy and Keane were unhappy with progress until they resigned

Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, has defended its commitment to the Sláintecare plan to reform the health service in the wake of the resignations of two people driving it.

Sláintecare executive director Laura Magahy and Prof Tom Keane, chairman of the advisory committee implementing the 10-year plan to overhaul the health service, resigned last week.

Prof Keane said in a letter explaining his resignation that “the requirements for implementing this unprecedented programme for change are seriously lacking”.

Mr Reid said that the first time he became aware of the extent of their unhappiness was when they resigned last week.

The HSE shared some of their frustration at the pace of reform during Covid-19, he said.

“There is no doubt if you take the past 18 months I am sure their frustration was and would be – as it is ours – that we could have got to some of the aspects they would have liked us to get to,” Mr Reid told RTÉ’s This Week programme.

He was “very sad to lose people of the calibre of people that we have”, he said.

Mr Reid said the HSE was “fully committed” to implementing “all aspects of Sláintecare”, including the establishment of six health management regions.

Raised concerns

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Department of Health secretary general Robert Watt to appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee and answer questions on the resignations.

“What exactly were the obstacles that were put in their way to introducing the much needed reform of the health service,” she said.

The resignations raised concerns from one of Mr Donnelly's party colleagues. Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher, a former health spokesman for the party, said Dr Keane's concerns "must be a wake-up call for the Government". He said Mr Donnelly must explain the reasons behind these resignations.

Fine Gael Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton said the Government was "categorically" committed to the rollout of the programme and wanted to understand why they had stepped down.

Ms Naughton said Mr Donnelly and the Taoiseach will be meeting Ms Magahy and Prof Keane about the implementation of Sláintecare. Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said the resignations were “another example of the failure of Government to actually implement the plan that has been agreed”.