Thursday, 8 November 2012

Questions (30)

Barry Cowen

Question:

30. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the concern amongst persons in the south east regarding a reconfiguration of hospital services in the region; his plans regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48925/12]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

A key stepping stone towards the introduction of Universal Health Insurance will be to develop independent not-for-profit hospital trusts in which all hospitals will function as part of integrated groups. The rationale behind the establishment of hospital groups and trusts is to support increased operational autonomy and accountability for hospital services in a way that will drive service reforms and provide the maximum possible benefit to patients. Reform across the three domains of access, quality and resources is not achievable unless there is real clinical and managerial accountability at hospital level.

The work on hospital groups is not about downgrading hospitals. It is about the bringing together groups of hospitals to form single cohesive entities to allow maximum flexibility in management, budgets and service delivery. With specific regard to the South East there remains full commitment to the retention of Waterford as one of the 8 existing national cancer services with all the associated services required in the hospital. The Trauma Centre at Waterford will also be retained. The provision of other services at any hospital site will, of course, primarily be determined by the appropriate clinical programme for that service, taking account of the population which the hospital serves and services provided by other hospitals which are within a reasonable commute.

Last June I appointed Professor John Higgins to chair a Strategic Board on the Establishment of Hospital Groups. The Strategic Board has representatives with both national and international expertise in health service delivery, governance and linkages with academic institutions. A Project Team was established to make recommendations to the Strategic Board on the composition of hospital groups, governance arrangements, management frameworks and linkages to academic institutions.

In order to form these recommendations, the project team has carried out a comprehensive consultation process with all acute hospitals and other health service agencies. The consultation process included 2 days of meetings with the hospitals in the South East, on 9th July and again on 4th October. Submissions, including a significant number of submissions from representatives of the South East hospitals and citizens from that Region have also been received by the group.

Work is continuing on finalising a Draft Report on the recommendations outlined above for submission to the Strategic Board. This report will be considered by the Board when they meet on 14th November. When the Board have signed off on this Report it will be submitted to me and I will then bring it to Cabinet. The composition of Hospital groups will be a Government decision, taking into account the recommendations of that Report.

Hospital groups will be established on an administrative basis pending the legislation required to set up hospital trusts by 2014. Before those trusts are established the make-up and functioning of the Groups will be reviewed and if changes prove necessary then they will be made with Government approval when the hospital trusts are being formed.