Pol­icy U-turn as HSE board to be re­built

■ Gov­ern­ment had pre­vi­ously agreed to scrap health ex­ec­u­tive

Irish Examiner - - News - Elaine Lough­lin Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

The Taoiseach has con­firmed that the Gov­ern­ment has aban­doned plans to scrap the HSE board and is now draft­ing leg­is­la­tion to re-estab­lish it.

In a ma­jor U-turn, Leo Varad­kar told the Dáil that Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris has been given ap­proval to draft leg­is­la­tion to reestab­lish the HSE board.

“I do not have a date for it but he has au­tho­ri­sa­tion to do so,” Mr Varad­kar said un­der ques­tion­ing from Michael Harty, a GP and an In­de­pen­dent TD for Clare.

The dis­man­tle­ment of the Health Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive was an­nounced by for­mer health min­is­ter James Reilly who pushed strongly for the re­form in the health sys­tem.

The changes to scrap the ex­ec­u­tive were agreed in the 2011 Pro­gramme for Gov­ern­ment be­tween Fine Gael and the Labour party. And in 2015, dur­ing his time in the Depart­ment of Health, Mr Varad­kar promised that the ex­ec­u­tive would be fully dis­man­tled by 2020.

Mr Harty yes­ter­day asked Mr Varad­kar if he would con­tinue with the com­mit­ment laid down in the cur­rent Pro­gramme for Gov­ern­ment, which states that they will carry on with the process of dis­man­tling the HSE and evolv­ing it into a health com­mis­sion.

Mr Harty said: “Fol­low­ing a Cab­i­net meet­ing on 13 Oc­to­ber, the min­is­ter for health stated there are plans to estab­lish a gov­ern­ing board to over­see HSE per­for­mance, which is in keep­ing with the Sláin­te­care re­port. Does this in­di­cate that the process of dis­man­tling the HSE is now no longer the Gov­ern­ment’ s pol­icy? Will there be leg­is­la­tion to re­con­sti­tute the HSE board to en­sure it can be ac­count­able for the HSE’s per­for­mance?”

Mr Varad­kar said that, in light of the pub­li­ca­tion of the all-party Sláin­te­care re­port, Mr Har­ris, with the sup­port of the Gov­ern­ment, has de­cided to fol­low the re­form ad­vo­cated by that re­port, rather than what is in the Pro­gramme for Gov­ern­ment.

“The min­is­ter for health has ap­proval to draft leg­is­la­tion to re-estab­lish the HSE board,” said Mr Varad­kar. “I do not have a date for it but he has au­tho­ri­sa­tion to do so.”

Af­ter a special Cab­i­net meet­ing in Cork last month, Mr Har­ris high­lighted the find­ings of the Sláin­te­care re­port, which says the cur­rent HSE gover­nance struc­ture is not fit for pur­pose.

At the time, he said: “I in­tend to estab­lish a board to strengthen the over­sight and per­for­mance of the HSE. This will re­quire leg­is­la­tion and I hope to have a board, with very strong com­pe­ten­cies across key ar­eas, es­tab­lished in 2018.”

Last night, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelle­her said the Gov­ern­ment has been “con­sis­tently dis­man­tling its own pol­icy”.

“They have done a full cir­cle, it was James Reilly who wanted to get rid of the board and now they are mov­ing to reestab­lish a board,” said Mr Kelle­her.

How­ever, he added that, for some time, there has been a con­sen­sus that the cur­rent gover­nance of the HSE is not sus­tain­able.

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