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Voluntary hospitals concerned about new financial system

The HSE is working on addressing the concerns of voluntary hospitals regarding the implementation of an integrated financial management system (IFMS) for the health service, Medical Independent (MI) can report. The Voluntary Healthcare Forum (VHF), which represents voluntary hospitals, has sought assurances that the IFMS will protect the governance and financial autonomy of their members.

On 30 July 2020, VHF Chair Mr John Gleeson and Director Ms Patricia Doherty wrote to the HSE following a meeting earlier that month.

“The substantive outcome of the meeting from our perspective was the acknowledgment that a legal framework will be necessary before our members participate in the platform and we welcome that clarification,” according to the letter, seen by MI through Freedom of Information legislation.

“We note we disagreed on the vehicle for such an agreement, your position being that it can be incorporated into the service arrangement, whereas we consider a standalone agreement will be required.”

The VHF considered that the HSE should outline how it proposes to give legal effect to the assurances contained in a consultation framework paper on the IFMS. The paper acknowledged that the HSE needed to work with voluntary hospitals to ensure the IFMS does not adversely impact the obligations and responsibilities of their board members.
In advance of a position paper on the subject, the VHF listed a number of the key issues from its perspective.

While the VHF acknowledged that the HSE had signaled its intention to work with voluntary agencies in its consultation paper, the Executive had not yet identified the specific design features of the IFMS that will protect the autonomy of non-HSE entities, nor “specific legal assurances it will provide to do so”. The VHF called upon the HSE to address these issues “urgently”.

A spokesperson for the HSE told MI engagement with the voluntary sector has intensified over the last year as the detailed system design has progressed. All stakeholder groups are required to sign off on detailed system designs.
The spokesperson said that “contrary to VHF’s assertion”, the IFMS has not been designed for a single governance organisation, but readily accommodates independent legal entities.

“However, as referenced in the framework, the HSE fully acknowledges the concerns of the voluntary sector and is committed to working in partnership with key stakeholders to develop a legal framework, which will codify the reciprocal accountabilities and provide the necessary assurances to boards around independence and autonomy,” according to the spokesperson. Work on an outline legal framework is ongoing at present. The system is expected to complete its “national design, build and test phases” during the fourth quarter of 2021 with deployment commencing in 2022.

See news feature, P4-5.

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