Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (518)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

633 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children his plans for legislation to implement proposed changes in administration and medical staffing in the health services. [2287/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The health sector reform programme has implications for all organisations in the health sector both in terms of structures and in terms of governance, accountability, planning, monitoring and evaluation. Fundamental reform of the existing statutory provisions in relation to the roles, organisation structure and management of the health system will be required to give effect to the proposals contained in the reform programme.

The Government's legislation programme makes provision for the enactment of legislation to give statutory effect where required to implement the proposals in the reform programme. The first element of the programme is the preparation of an establishment order under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act 1961 as amended, establishing the interim Health Services Executive on a statutory basis. The order is being finalised at present and I expect to be in a position to sign it by the end of this month. This will empower the interim executive to carry out the set up tasks and preparations necessary to enable an orderly transfer of functions to the HSE when permanently established by new legislation in January 2005.

It will be necessary to introduce new legislation to provide the main legislative basis for the implementation of the health sector reform programme. It will establish the new Health Service Executive to replace the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. It will also provide the legislative basis for other aspects of the reform programme such as improved governance and accountability, planning and monitoring and evaluation. The establishment of the health information and quality authority (HIQA) on a legislative basis will also be provided for. It is also my intention that the new legislation will include provision for a statutory framework for complaints procedures in the health services as proposed in the health strategy. My intention is to have this legislation introduced by December 2004 so as to have the Health Services Executive in place in January 2005.

The Government has also indicated its intention in the legislation programme for the spring session to introduce a health (amendment) Bill to cope with the situation which will arise following the local election in June 2004. Given the impending establishment of, and formal transfer of functions to the Health Service Executive, the Government has considered whether it would be appropriate to proceed in the normal way with the appointment of local representatives to the health boards. I intend discussing this matter further with the association of health boards at a meeting to be arranged in the near future. Following that meeting, I will be making a public announcement on the Governments intentions in this regard.

With respect to the specific issue of legislation in relation to medical staff, the National Task Force on Medical Staffing (the Hanly report) noted that Ireland is required to ensure that the provisions of the European Working Time Directive apply to doctors in training from 1 August 2004. The directive was transposed into Irish law by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. At present doctors in training are excluded from these provisions. My Department is at present holding discussions with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in relation to the introduction of the necessary statutory instrument to apply these provisions to doctors in training.