Former Sláintecare council chair will not appear before Oireachtas committee

Executive director also says she will not take part in hearing over resignations

Leo Varadkar, Laura Magahy, Tom Keane and Simon Harris in July 2018. Photograph: Maxwells

Leo Varadkar, Laura Magahy, Tom Keane and Simon Harris in July 2018. Photograph: Maxwells

 

The former Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council chairman has declined to appear before an Oireachtas committee looking into the circumstances surrounding the resignations of senior figures associated with the programme.

Prof Tom Keane told the Oireachtas Committee on Health that he and the former executive director of the Sláintecare programme office in the Department of Health Laura Magahy had given the reasons for their departures to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin at a recent meeting.

Prof Keane and Ms Magahy resigned suddenly from their roles in September – a move which the Opposition maintained cast a shadow over the implementation of the overall health reform programme.

The Government has insisted it is committed to putting in place the wide-ranging health service reforms pledged under the 10-year Sláintecare plan, which was introduced in 2017.

The Oireachtas committee, which has been looking into the background to the resignations, had provisionally identified dates later this month to speak with Ms Magahy and Prof Keane.

The Irish Times reported on Monday that Ms Magahy had told the committee that she would not attend.

In a letter to the committee, Prof Keane said that “for a number of reasons” he was unable to travel to Ireland to appear before it.

“Having reviewed the constraints and limitations of appearing virtually I have decided to decline the committee’s invitation to appear. As you may be aware Laura and I met with the Taoiseach a week ago and conveyed to him the reasons for our resignations and our recommendations for the future implementation of the Sláintecare programme for change. I have nothing further to say.”

In her letter to the Oireachtas committee, Ms Magahy said: “The reasons behind my resignation were outlined in my letter to the Minister for Health, who I understand has now put in place a new delivery mechanism as outlined by the Minister at last week’s committee meeting.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for their support and interest in Sláintecare implementation during my tenure.”

In her letter of resignation in September to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Ms Magahy said there had been “slow progress” in “three key areas requiring dedicated, focused, reform effort”.

She said the three areas were the proposed new regional structures for the health service, eHealth – or using technology to enhance services – and waiting lists.

In a letter last month to the Sláintecare council outlining his reasons for resigning, Prof Keane said: “Sadly, I have come to conclude that the requirements for implementing this unprecedented programme for change are seriously lacking.”

The Minister said earlier this month that the council was to be restructured following the recent controversy and the various resignations.

Mr Donnelly said he planned to establish a new group to advise his department on regional health areas which were due to be established under the Sláintecare plan.