I propose to take Questions Nos. 142, 164 and 210 together.
The health sector reform programme has implications for all organisations in the health sector in terms of structures, governance, accountability, planning, monitoring and evaluation. Fundamental reform of the existing statutory provisions on 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 shortly. 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 health service executive 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 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 legislative programme for the spring session to introduce a Health (Amendment) Bill to cope with the situation which will arise following the local elections 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 after the local elections. I intend discussing the matter further with the Association of Health Boards at a meeting to be arranged in the near future. Following that meeting, I will make a public announcement on the Government's intentions in this regard.