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However, as reported by Paul Mulholland in this newspaper last month, just one of the seven Hospital Groups (envisaged as precursors to the Trusts) has a functioning board. This is despite the fact that the reorganisation of HSE-funded hospitals into Groups was announced over three years ago.
The commitment to establish Hospital Trusts is restated in the Programme for Partnership Government published in May 2016. However, now Minister of Health Simon Harris seems to be stalling on plans pending the outcome of the expected report from the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare in January — if indeed it arrives on time.
According to the Minister’s speaking notes for a meeting with the RCSI Hospitals Group Board Chair and CEO in July, seen by the Medical Independent (MI):“I think it important that those discussions are progressed before we give further consideration to the issue of establishing Hospital Groups on a legislative basis.”
In the meantime, the Department has been working with the HSE to develop a Memorandum of Agreement to provide “clarity” on the respective roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and relationships of the Department, the HSE and the six Hospital Group Boards (excluding the Children’s Hospital Group).
MI has been informed that it is intended to circulate the draft Memorandum of Agreement to the Hospital Group Chairs with a view to agreeing as soon as possible.
Regrettably, it all seems a little messy. And this is leaving aside the very dicey issue of the independence of voluntary hospitals within the Groups and how exactly that will be resolved.
The more critical voices may even suggest that yet another layer of meaningless bureaucracy has been added to our labyrinthine health system, in the absence of real progress in reorganisation.
Whatever the Future of Healthcare Committee endorses — or proposes rowing back on — let’s hope there is meaningful agreement and that politics can be left aside. For now.
But I have my doubts.
Our Editor Priscilla Lynch has departed for her maternity leave from this issue and everyone here at MI would like to wish her the very best for the coming months — and indeed the next 18 years.
We look forward to welcoming Priscilla back later in 2017 and, hopefully, her probing and sharp journalism may well appear on these pages in the interim.
In the meantime, as always, reader suggestions, criticism and compliments are most welcome.
And letters — most of all, letters.