Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has said there are more questions than answers for the Minister for Health following his decision to press ahead with the creation of ‘hospital groups’ this year.
Deputy Kelleher said: ‘There is much to be worried about in the Minister’s letter to the Chairman of the HSE today. Minister Reilly has stated that he wants the hospital groups created “as quickly as possible this year” as a forerunner to the establishment of hospital trusts next year. This is simply a case of more boards, more bureaucracy, more bluster. The Minister has spent a full year in office coming up with a ‘Back to the Future’ plan that offers no clarity on continuity of services and re-establishes a health board structure that we abolished almost a decade ago.
‘Executive teams will be created within these hospital groups “with the autonomy to reconfigure services across the group”. The result being that more cuts will be made to local services, middle managers will be ones to make them and there will be no political accountability.
‘The Minister has failed to outline what hospitals will be covered by the new groups he is establishing, whether these groups will be established with proper urban and rural balance and whether they will be established across all critical disciplines.
‘Hospitals within the groups will have a shared employment ceiling and will be required to share staff across the hospital group. One of my main concerns here is that smaller hospitals will have their resources subsumed into larger hospitals and skeleton services will be left in many communities.
Deputy Kelleher concluded: ‘There are also serious questions for the Minister to answer here on his decision to close services at local hospitals such as Roscommon. How can the Minister decide that local services are to be cut and then establish a hospital group within a region and devolve powers to that group to decide on the future provision of hospital services? Is the Minister opening the door here for the Accident and Emergency department at Roscommon Hospital to be reopened or is he preparing the ground for such hospitals to be stripped of more services? The Minister needs to be more upfront and accountable to the Dáil when announcing major reforms in the health service rather than rushing announcements out on a Friday evening ahead of a major party conference to create the appearance of achievement in office.”