The decision of both of these eminent people to resign on the same day is significant

The announcement that two of the most senior officials, tasked with implementing Sláintecare, have resigned on the same day raises fundamental questions about the progress of this hugely important reform of our health services, according to Social Democrats Health Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.

Laura Magahy, the Executive Director for the Sláintecare reform programme office, and Professor Tom Keane, the chairperson of the Sláintecare Advisory Council, announced they were stepping down today. It is my understanding that Professor Keane’s three-year term of office was not due to expire until October. The decision of both of these eminent people to resign on the same day, is therefore significant.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly must now explain the background to this worrying development and outline the reasons for the resignations of these senior people so that lessons can be learned.

There have long been concerns that institutional resistance to structural change exists within his own Department, the HSE and various hospital groups. The Minister must offer his assurances that there is wide-ranging support for Sláintecare, and its radical reform programme, across every institution that comprises our health service.

To date, there has been very slow progress on critical restructuring of the health service, in terms of integrating hospitals and community services on a regional basis, and developing a clinical governance framework to ensure accountability for the provision of services and budget allocation and spending.

This slow progress can partly be blamed by the pandemic and the cyberattack, both of which have had a devastating impact on the health service. However, Sláintecare was first published in 2017 as a ten year programme and very little, other than the occasional publication of glossy plans, has been achieved in the interim.

The Sláintecare reform programme office should now be moved to the Department of the Taoiseach to bolster its influence and ensure co-operation from across government, and other State bodies, for its critically important reform agenda. We also urgently need to the publication of a credible timetable for these important reforms.

8 September, 2021


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