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Department of Taoiseach ‘must lead’ on Sláintecare

By David Lynch - 21st Feb 2022

The recent Health Summit was told that stronger political leadership was required to implement Sláintecare. 

A number of speakers highlighted the need for greater guidance from the Department of the Taoiseach in particular. 

Former HSE Director General Mr Tony O’Brien, said that the implications of Sláintecare were “bigger than the Department of Health, bigger than the HSE and it does require leadership from the very centre of Government in order to be seen through”. 

“What we have seen time and time again is that previous reforms have been half attempted and never really followed through…. I would share the concern of some that unless this is led from the centre of Government, and unless it has some real impetus it will fizzle out. 

“While we might see some things rebranded as Sláintecare and some things brought through, I don’t think the vision of the all-party committee set forth will happen unless there is that leadership on an ongoing basis.” 

Mr Donal de Buitléir, former Chair of the independent review group, which examined private activity in public hospitals, said the health strategy “does need a strong political push”. 

“Whether it will be fully implemented…. I still think we can make some progress,” he added. 

“It seems to me sometimes that a Government decision is a signal to start a debate in this country. For example, there is a Government decision that new consultants be offered a public-only contract and yet we seem to be bogged down in negotiations… to try and get that across the line.” 

Mr de Buitléir said it seemed “very strange” that the HSE was still issuing “old” consultant contracts. 

In terms of the cost of the Sláintecare plan, Mr de Buitléir said: “We have to face the situation that for a whole lot of reasons, we are going to have to pay more in taxes to deliver the vision for Sláintecare…. We are going to have to invest more in public services and face up to the fact that this means increased taxation.” 

Referencing the increased health spending during the pandemic, Mr O’Brien said this funding should be looked at to see how it “can be reused to support the delivery of Sláintecare”. 

Ultimately, he said this was a political decision and while “all the politicians went into the last election mouthing their support for Sláintecare, none of them really were able to tell us what that really meant”. He said it is now the time to deliver a clear set of objectives and marshal resources. 

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