‘Centre’ must cede power to new regional bodies – O’Brien

By David Lynch - 21st Feb 2022 | 184 views

Mr Tony O'Brien

The ‘centre’ of the HSE and the Department of Health must be willing to devolve power if the six planned regional health areas (RHAs) are to succeed, the 18th National Health Summit, which took place on Tuesday 8 February, heard. 

Former HSE Director General Mr Tony O’Brien told the online conference that it was “absolutely clear that if you are going to empower six regional entities, the centre of the HSE and the Department (of Health) have to stop doing some things, so its functions need to migrate”. 

Mr O’Brien said that if this did not happen it would lead to “duplication” of positions. 

He added this duplication occurred when the HSE was originally established. 

“While I was with the HSE we were already considering, in the light of the publication of the Sláintecare Report, how you would do that,” Mr O’Brien said. “We had some difficulty getting the Department of Health’s attention on those questions, I suspect because of the implications it has for the Department of Health. 

“But both of the general functions [in the HSE and Department of Health] need to be genuinely slimmed down in their form, in their level of interference… if the six regionals are to be allowed to do their job. And if they are not allowed to do their job, there is no point in setting them up in my point of view.” 

Earlier in the conference, Mr Robert Watt, Secretary General at the Department of Health, spoke on the issue of Sláintecare implementation. 

He said the six RHAs “will be implemented during the course of this year and next”. 

“That will involve a very significant change in the integration between the different settings of healthcare and how budgets will be set on a regional basis of allocation.” 

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