It is believed HSE chief executive Prof Brendan Drumm has scrapped the original plan to have 10 hospital networks despite the 10 managerial appointments having been made.
The u-turn has been criticised by Labour health spokeswoman Liz McManus, who asked if the managers would be made redundant or retained for hospital networks that no longer exist.
“Whatever happens it is clear that this is going to cost money. The latest development appears to reflect a continuing lack of a clearly thought out plan in regard to health structures for the country,” she said.
The plan is expected to be the first step towards a reconfiguration of hospital services like that envisaged in the Hanly report.
However, while the Hanly Report envisaged setting up a network of ten regional hospitals supported by smaller hospitals, the new plan involves just four networks.
It is understood the four network boundaries are the same as for the four HSE regions - western, southern, Dublin north-east and Dublin mid-Leinster.
On Monday, Prof Drumm briefed his senior management on his plan to make the HSE’s management structures more responsive to the needs of patients and front line staff.
A spokesman said the plan simplified a number of key management functions and reflected Prof Drumm’s commitment to ensuring all of its activities must focus on patient care.
“For patients and front line staff the changes should mean more integration, consistency and accountability,” he said.
The spokesman added that reporting structures for the vast majority of staff would remain unchanged.
He said the changes were designed to involve clinical practitioners in the development, execution and monitoring of health care strategies and accelerate the pace of the reform programme.
Fine Gael’s health spokesman Dr Liam Twomey said the proposed changes might simplify functions for people working in the HSE but his chief concern was whether the changes would benefit patients.
Including hospitals as far apart as Limerick and Donegal in the same network might be unworkable, he warned. Serious clarification was also needed on the role of up to 12 smaller hospitals in the new network, he said.