Irish Times view on Sláintecare appointments: leadership required
Political commitment to health system reform project and spiralling health budget continue to cause concern
File photograph: Alan Betson
It is more than a year since the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare set out it’s 10-year vision for the future of the health system. However Government action to implement the Sláintecare plan has been notably slow: the Health Service Executive remains without an independent board; negotiations over a new GP contract – a central element of the core plan to shift care from hospitals to the community– are stalled; and there has been little concrete progress on the addition of the 2,600 acute hospital beds identified as essential to help ease our chronic waiting list problem.
In that context, the appointments last week of an executive director of the Sláintecare programme office – Laura Magahy – and of a chair of the Sláintecare advisory council – Dr Tom Keane – are welcome. Magahy has a track record of devising and leading complex and challenging projects. In the health sector, she and her company oversaw the €284 million development of the Mater Hospital in Dublin. But much of her work has involved physical development; Sláintecare is a challenge of a different magnitude and scope, requiring a significant cultural change in the way healthcare is delivered in Ireland.
Strong leadership, clear governance and effective engagement of stakeholders across the health sector will be essential to successful reform
As advisory council chair, Keane has stepped forward to render public service again. In the role of first head of the National Cancer Control programme, the Irish-Canadian brought equity and excellence to cancer treatment here.
Concerns remain that the Government will be tempted to cherry-pick just some elements of Sláintecare. This would be a mistake. The initiative sets out a long-term vision for health policy that must be allowed to develop above party politics and parish-pump concerns.
“Strong leadership, clear governance and effective engagement of stakeholders across the health sector will be essential to successful reform”, Dr Keane noted on his appointment. Wise words with which to begin the next stage of a project where the depth of political commitment – and the spiralling health budget – continue to give cause for concern.