The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly today announced the establishment of the Regional Health Areas Advisory Group, which will be chaired by Medical Council CEO Mr Leo Kearns.
“As work progresses to implement the six Regional Health Areas (RHAs) and align the integration of care, the members of the RHA Advisory Group will provide support and guidance as the Department of Health and HSE plan for the transition towards RHAs,” outlined a statement from the Department.
RHAs will ensure “the alignment” of hospital and community healthcare services at a regional level, based on defined populations and their local needs. This is key to delivering on the Sláintecare vision of an integrated health and social care service.
“In line with the Government’s commitment to this Sláintecare reform, work to actively progress the establishment of six new Regional Health Areas has been ongoing in recent months,” according to the Department.
Minister Donnelly said: “I am keen that voices from across the health and social care service are heard as we implement RHAs. In line with the Government’s commitment to delivering Sláintecare reform, this is a central plank of our Sláintecare strategy. I regard the implementation of RHAs as a fundamental change to the way that we deliver services with many benefits for patients and staff.
“We know that patients move between community and hospital services many times on their care journey. RHAs are a better way of organising health and social care to take account of this. The RHA Advisory Group will support this realignment of our services, utilising their shared knowledge and direct experience to inform meaningful change in how health care is delivered across Ireland.”
At today’s inaugural meeting, the group’s Chairperson Mr Kearns said: “I am honoured to have been asked to Chair this independent advisory group on the implementation of Regional Health Areas by the Minister. This group, with expertise and a range of perspectives from across health and social care, will provide guidance, support, and advice on the design of an implementation plan for RHAs to the Department of Health and HSE officials charged with implementing this work programme under Sláintecare.
“The intention of Regional Health Areas is to empower local decision-making, support population-based service planning and to enable the integration of community and acute care, which will ultimately lead towards improved patient experience, access to healthcare and play a key role in strengthening our health service.”
Seventeen members have been appointed to the Regional Health Areas Advisory Group for a one-year period. Members include GP Dr Tony Cox, former Medical Director of the ICGP; Ms Lucy Nugent, CEO of Tallaght University Hospital; Dr Martin Fellenz, Associate Professor of Business Studies, Trinity College Dublin; Mr Brian Fitzgerald, Deputy CEO, Beacon Hospital; and Ms Mellany McLoone, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare Organisation, Dublin North City and County.
In May 2021, the Medical Independent exclusively reported that the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council (SIAC) strongly disagreed with Minister Donnelly’s view that progressing the RHAs should be postponed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic (see our story here: https://www.medicalindependent.ie/slaintecare-council-opposes-donnellys-halt-on-regionalisation/).
In September, the Executive Director of Sláintecare in the Department of Health, Ms Laura Magahy, and Chair of the SIAC, Prof Tom Keane, stood down from their positions. In his resignation letter Prof Keane stated that he had “come to conclude that the requirements for implementing this unprecedented programme for change are seriously lacking”.