Progress being made on implementation of Sláintecare, committee hears

Implementation strategy approved by Government in May and covers period 2021-2023

The programme is at an advanced stage and will be presented to the Minister for Health soon to bring to the Government for approval. Photograph: iStock

The programme is at an advanced stage and will be presented to the Minister for Health soon to bring to the Government for approval. Photograph: iStock

 

Steady progress is being made on the implementation of Sláintecare and all programmes have received funding, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.

The Sláintecare implementation strategy and action plan was approved by the Government last month and covers the period 2021-2023. Priority programmes for the implementation over the next three years include improving safe, timely access to care and addressing health inequalities.

Speaking to the Oireachtas committee for health, Laura Magahy, deputy secretary at the Sláintecare programme implementation office said funding has been secured for everything in the plan, including additional beds and community care.

There would be a focus on shifting care from acute hospitals into the community and on reducing waiting lists which had become worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Magahy said.

“Waiting lists have been exacerbated and getting worse due to cancellations of operations because of Covid and the cyberattack. We’re developing a multiannual waiting list programme to get rid of waiting lists over a four-year period,” she said.

The programme is at an advanced stage and will be presented to the Minister for Health soon to bring to the Government for approval.

“Waiting lists are what people care about most and it will be the barometer of the success to Sláintecare” she said.

E-health was “critical” in reforming healthcare, Ms Magahy told the committee. Healthcare delivered through remote consultations, electronic prescribing have been “very successful” during the pandemic and it was important to invest in those things going forward, Ms Magahy said.

The risks in the area of e-health as shown by the cyberattack on the HSE demonstrated the importance of investing in the area as well.

New elective hospitals

Sláintecare aims to remove private care from public hospitals so that public patients would be prioritised and has a “long-term goal of universal single tier healthcare”. The Sláintecare Consultant Contract, permitting public-only work in public hospitals, is currently being rolled out to facilitate this.

Over the next three years, Sláintecare will work with partners to begin construction on new elective hospitals in Cork, Dublin and Galway, hire 7,000 new community-based healthcare staff and deliver 31 new Primary Care Centres.

There are plans to invest in 32 community specialist hubs for older people and people living with chronic disease, the committee was told.

An obesity programme to reverse obesity trends has been funded, and “age friendly coordinators” have been hired to assess what supports older people need to be able to stay in their own homes longer as Ireland is “an outlier in terms of institutional care as opposed to trying to keep people well in their own homes”.

Ireland has a high number of people going into nursing homes later in their lives compared to other countries. “Age friendly homes” are to be built to enable people to be well and safe at home for longer.

The programme implementation office had been making “steady progress” since they opened 2 years ago, the deputy secretary said.