Sláintecare council seeks to extend term as reforms face serious crisis

Minister to be asked to extend term of office of Sláintecare council until end of year

Remaining members of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council are also to ask the Minister for Health  if he will extend the group’s term of office until the end of the year. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Remaining members of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council are also to ask the Minister for Health if he will extend the group’s term of office until the end of the year. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Key figures in the implementation group for the Sláintecare health reforms are to seek a meeting with top health service officials in the next seven days to discuss their views on the future of the programme.

Remaining members of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council are also to ask Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly if he will extend the group’s term of office until the end of the year given their view that the proposed reforms are facing a serious crisis.

Members of the council met on Tuesday night in the wake of the sudden resignation earlier this month of its chairman, Prof Tom Keane, and the executive director of the programme, Laura Magahy. The members also discussed the outcome of a meeting with Mr Donnelly last Friday.

The term of office of the council is scheduled to expire next week.

However, prior to then the members of the council are to seek a meeting within seven days with the secretary general at the Department of Health, Robert Watt, and the chief executive of the Health Service Executive, Paul Reid.

The members are seeking the views of Mr Reid and Mr Watt on the future of the Sláintecare programme, particularly in the light of comments in the resignation letters of Prof Keane and Ms Magahy.

Prof Keane said in his letter that “fundamental failures of governance, accountability and commitment continue to make any chance of success impossible”.

‘Slow progress’

Ms Magahy cited “slow progress” in “three key areas requiring dedicated, focused reform effort” in her letter of resignation to the Minister.

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

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas health committee is unable to hold hearings into the resignations, and the current state of Sláintecare implementation, due to the unavailability of witnesses.

The committee, which is chaired by Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, had hoped to begin its examination of the issue by calling in Mr Donnelly and Mr Watt. It then planned to ask Ms Magahy and Prof Keane to appear before it as witnesses.

However, the committee was unable to agree an early date with the Minister and his chief official as they are engaged in pre-budget planning.

A hearing involving the two men has now been set for early October, possibly on the sixth.

With Ms Magahy also unable to appear before the committee before next month, it is likely to be some weeks before further light is shed on their resignations and the department’s current plans for Sláintecare.