Government to re-establish board to oversee HSE

Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has claimed the return of the HSE board will ensure a new era of health service accountability — despite opposition warnings that no service “on the planet” could cope with the constant changes to the system.

Mr Varadkar clashed with Fianna Fáil TDs as Cabinet signed off on plans to bring back a “slimmed-down” nine-person HSE board six years after removing a 10-person version of the body.

Under a move put forward by Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday, cabinet agreed to re-establish an independent HSE board as part of new legislation expected to be passed by January.

The new board may ultimately include a patient advocate and will include a chief executive position, a nine-person board and new transparency rules which will allow board members to make judgements on the chief executive’s financial and clinical performance.

The signing-off of the board’s return was welcomed by Mr Harris, who said “the events of the past few weeks have once again made clear there is an urgent need to restore public confidence in the HSE through a series of actions to strengthen the management, governance and accountability of the organisation”.

Mr Varadkar also backed the move yesterday, telling reporters the board will be able to “act like a check between the executive and the Government” and claiming it will herald a new era of accountability and transparency in the system.

What’s different, and fundamentally different, to the board before [in 2012] is that there isn’t just going to be one board for this massive organisation that’s too big to fail and too big to succeed, there’ll also be boards at a local level as well,” he said.

“We’ll be bringing hospital groups together with the community health organisations and we’ll have a number of different boards around the country as well, because the HSE is such a massive entity it’s almost too big to manage and it need to be slimmed down.”

However, despite the positive comments, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly issued a note of caution to the move, telling RTÉ Radio’s Today With Sean O’Rourke no system “on the planet” could cope with the constant structural changes taking place.

“There is no management team on the face of the planet that could create a functioning health service with the kind of chaos created in the last number of years,” said Mr Donnelly.

Every year or two, they [the Government] replace the health minister with a new Health minister and a new health plan.

Since former health minister James Reilly announced plans to remove the HSE in 2011, the HSE board has been disbanded in 2012 and now resigned HSE director Tony O’Brien was appointed to dismantle the HSE in 2012.

Now Mr Varadkar also sidelined Dr Reilly’s much vaunted universal health insurance plans in 2015 despite the initiative previously being seen as a way to revolutionise the health service, while the HSE board is now set to be returned six years after it was scrapped.

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