The former head of the HSE sharply criticised progress on the implementation of Sláintecare at a major health conference in Croke Park.
Speaking at the 15th National Health Summit, former HSE Director General Mr Tony O’Brien said he supported the 10-year plan for the health system, although it had “strength and weaknesses”.
Mr O’Brien also praised the establishment of the Sláintecare Programme Office and the appointment of its Executive Director Ms Laura Magahy.
However, he raised serious concerns over the lack of a specific transitional fund dedicated to the implementation of Sláintecare.
“It is unfortunate that at the moment, it is not possible to identify a single euro that has been allocated to a transitional fund,” said Mr O’Brien.
“So the pace of change has not been encouraging. There are still people making all the right noises… My concern is that we will go down the road where we are too concerned about lines on maps and names of organisations rather than addressing that fundamental [fund] for the transition. And when people say to me, ‘can we afford it?’, I say ‘we cannot afford not to’.”
Speaking earlier in the day, Ms Magahy told attendees in Croke Park that the successful conclusion of the current GP contract negotiations was crucial to the implementation of Sláintecare.
Ms Magahy said “concluding an agreement on a new GP contract is so important to delivering care in the community”.
“GPs are the cornerstone of the community. We know that there are GP negotiations happening at the moment; we hope they come to a conclusion really soon and they are to the satisfaction of everybody involved, because without the GPs, we cannot deliver care in the community… We hope that negotiations come to a conclusion really quickly because without it, we cannot move on and do the job.”
Ms Magahy warned the National Health Summit that “implementation isn’t easy”.
“We are doing this in partnership. Clearly, I’ve a very small office in the Department of Health, and we will not be doing all that work. This is the work of [all] the system.”
Looking at the health system in general, she said, “we need more capacity, we do need more people. There is an element of needing more beds… but there are also process improvements [needed].”
In the face of cynicism from some quarters about Sláintecare, she said she remained hopeful about the future.
“The people I’m meeting are hopeful and positive and up for it. I think the fact that there is all-party support makes this different. It is critical that stays there. But we all have a responsibility to make this happen.”