Former EU official to head review of voluntary hospitals in health service
Harris wants three-person panel to report within a year
Catherine Day: Heading a new review of the role of voluntary hospitals in the publicly funded health service. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES
The three-person group also includes Prof Jane Grimson, pro-chancellor at Trinity College Dublin and a former acting chief executive of health watchdog Hiqa, and Prof Deirdre Madden of UCC, a specialist in medical law and company law.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said he expected the group to report back to Government within a year.
The creation of the review group follows recent controversy over the ownership and governance of the new €300 million national maternity hospital, which is to be largely funded by the exchequer, as well as disputes over executive remuneration in voluntary hospitals and allegations of breaches of Government pay policy.
The new group has been asked to examine the role played by voluntary organisations in health provision and personal social services in Ireland; to consider current and potential issues arising; and to make recommendations to the Minister for Health on the future relationship between the State and voluntary service providers.
The group is also being asked to suggest options enhancing services and safeguarding public investment, particularly where large capital investments are required or where withdrawal of services was being considered.
Mr Harris said voluntary and non-statutory providers, including religious and faith-based organisations, had made an enormous contribution to the provision of health and personal social services in Ireland over centuries.
“Their role in providing care to people, at a time when in many cases the State failed to do so, has led to the complex tapestry that is our current health system. The role played by these organisations, how they are organised and their arrangements with the State have changed over the years and we can expect further changes to emerge over time,” he said.
“Recent debate has highlighted the differing and evolving views on the ownership and governance of publicly funded healthcare facilities. Given the scale of public investment, it is right that there is regular discourse and appropriate consideration of the role of these organisations within our healthcare system.
“I believe the time has come to put in place a process that will enable full consideration of these issues,” the Minister said, adding: “This process will be separate and distinct from the intensive engagement underway with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital, which is seeking to address the specific issues that have arisen on that particular project in a more urgent way.
“ The establishment of this review group will provide the space for an inclusive and respectful process of consideration and inform the development of policy over the medium term.”
Mr Harris said he was not entering the process “with any pre-conceived beliefs or views ,” adding he wanted the new process “to openly and impartially identify and consider these issues”.