Key posts unfilled by HSE a year on

A year after the launch of the first National Maternity Strategy, key posts remain unfilled in the office set up to drive its implementation.

Liam Woods, national director of the HSE’s acute hospitals division, revealed yesterday that despite a comprehensive recruitment campaign in the second quarter of 2016, they failed to find suitable candidates for any of the three positions identified as key to driving the strategy forward under the auspices of the National Women and Infants Health Programme.

These included a national programme director, a clinical director, and a director of midwifery.

Mr Woods, attending the joint Oireachtas health committee to discuss the strategy, said they had to second Kilian McGrane from his post as deputy group chief executive of the Ireland East Hospital group to take up the position of national programme director — a role he assumed on January 3. Mr McGrane was previously deputy director of the National Cancer Control Programme.

Mr Woods said the HSE “expect to make an appointment shortly” regarding the clinical director role. He said they hope to re-advertise the director of midwifery post soon, “once the discussions on salary for the position have been concluded”.

Mary Leahy, for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said it is “increasingly concerned at the slow pace of implementation”. A key example is the midwife-to-birth staffing ratios, she said. The acceptable ratio, according to best practice, is one midwife to 29.5 births. However, in some units, there is “one midwife to 40 births, with one midwife to 36 being the average across the country”, she said.

The HSE came under fire from Labour TD Alan Kelly, who said he does not believe there is “a hope in hell that it’s going to be implemented”.

Mr Kelly said: “I don’t believe the money is there. I don’t believe the will is there. It’s a year since it was launched and what has happened? A couple of jobs advertised in the recent past.”

He questioned how the 10-year strategy would be funded. Mr Woods said there is “indicative funding” of €52m over the 10 years, frontloaded, with €12m a year for the first three years, and reduced funding thereafter.

Mr Kelly questioned if this would even cover the cost of moving the National Maternity Hospital to St Vincent’s.

Mr Woods agreed they may have to look at alternative funding models, using third-party investment, such as had been used to develop primary care centres. He said the approach of the National Women and Infants Health Programme would be based on that adopted by the National Cancer Control Programme, with ring-fenced investment for maternity services and “a consistent model of governance and leadership”.

Mr Woods was also asked to explain why gynaecology services had not been included in the maternity strategy. He said it was “not a HSE decision to include/exclude things”.

Mr Kelly asked if this meant the HSE favoured its inclusion. Mr Woods said: “I can’t say that. I wasn’t party to those deliberations.”

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