Sláintecare committee seeks details on background to resignations

Donnelly also questioned why project not run from Taoiseach’s Department as planned

Members of the committee have submitted a series of questions to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly ahead of a scheduled meeting next week. Photograph:   Niall Carson/PA

Members of the committee have submitted a series of questions to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly ahead of a scheduled meeting next week. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

Members of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Committee (SIAC) have asked Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to set out details on the background to the resignation of key figures in the reform plan.

They also want to know why the project was not based in the Department of the Taoiseach, as originally proposed.

Members of the committee have submitted a series of questions to Mr Donnelly ahead of a scheduled meeting next week.

In a statement on Friday, SIAC members expressed “shock, regret and concern” at the resignations of Sláintecare programme office executive director Laura Magahy and the chairman of SIAC, Prof Tom Keane, earlier this week.

They said they were seeking answers from the Minister and his department regarding the events that led up to the resignations.

They also want to know why Ms Magahy was not the lead health management negotiator when talks on a new public-only contract for hospital consultants – one of the key elements of the reform plan – resumed earlier this month.

Members of the group maintained SIAC had been told following a meeting of the committee that the title “Sláintecare” was to be removed from the proposed new consultant contract. They understood that this decision was subsequently reversed.

Pressure

Committee members also said there had been a number of resignations from SIAC several weeks ago after an undertaking that it could hold a meeting on the proposed consultant contract was also later reversed.

The committee members have asked Mr Donnelly if pressure had been applied not to allow such a discussion to take place.

They also want him to set out who authorised a statement from the Department of Health last Wednesday to The Irish Times and other media suggesting Prof Keane’s term of office had expired rather than the fact that he had resigned.

SIAC members on Friday confirmed there had been unhappiness among figures close to the Sláintecare programme at delays in implementing a planned radical shake-up of regional structures in the HSE.

Management consultant Eddie Molloy said there had been “resistance and delay” by the Minister in supporting moving forward with new regional structures which would break up the monolithic HSE into six separate regional entities.

Concerns

He said for more than a year the unanimous view was that the regional structures should be moved forward. Mr Molloy said Ms Magahy and Prof Keane had written to the Minister pleading with him to progress the initiative.

He said the Minister had “contested the advice” and he referred to his experience working with management consultants, McKinsey, and said something like that should not be done during a crisis like Covid-19.

Sources close to Mr Donnelly have maintained his decision to effectively back the HSE in opposing moving ahead with the new regional structures earlier this year was based on “timing”.

A Sláintecare progress report which identified concerns over implementing HSE regional structural reforms and difficulties over agreeing a plan to tackle waiting lists was published on Friday evening.