It is anticipated “industrial relations issues may arise” during the implementation of the six new regional health areas (RHAs), an internal HSE meeting has heard.
The issue was raised at the January meeting of the Executive’s people and culture committee during a wider discussion on the RHAs.
The meeting minutes noted that the committee heard about the “enthusiasm from staff” for the proposed RHAs, and that “interactions to date have been strong and positive”.
“Whilst it is anticipated that some industrial relations issues may arise, there is a process in place with unions to work through any issues.”
Asked about the possible nature of industrial relations challenges, a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that “as with any major transformational change, there will be implications for roles and responsibilities to transition to agreed new structures, the detail of which will be finalised over the coming months”.
“This will also be a feature of the Sláintecare reform programme in meeting the objectives of RHA structures to achieve better patient-centred integrated care. It will involve new ways of working across both clinical and non-clinical staff between acute and community, voluntary and non-voluntary services.”
An RHA implementation plan is expected to be published shortly.
In regard to the appointment of CEOs to the six RHAs, the HSE informed MI that work is ongoing between the HSE and Department of Health “to progress the recruitment of these posts in line with the programme timelines with a view to standing up the RHAs in early 2024”.
According to the Government, the new RHAs will ensure the geographical alignment of hospital and community healthcare services at a regional level, based on defined populations and their local needs.
“The RHA implementation plan will outline the approach to RHA planning and design in line with the overall design principles and objectives of Sláintecare, and will set out a high-level programme of work for 2023, with a view to RHAs commencing operation in 2024,” Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil earlier this month.
“To this end,” the Minister added, “the planned realignment of Hospital Groups and Community Healthcare Organisations to RHA geographies will be a priority. The new geographic teams will continue to progress integrated care pathways and improved ways of working between hospitals and communities in 2023 and 2024.”
Minister Donnelly said the Government remained “committed” to the implementation of the RHAs. Following the establishment of the new structures, he said that “further reforms and devolution of authority” will take place on a phased basis through 2024 and 2025.
Earlier this year, a HSE spokesperson told MI that a “multi-annual implementation roadmap with key milestones is being developed for 2023, 2024, and 2025”.