Councillors ‘off health boards from June’

NEWLY-ELECTED councillors will not be appointed to health boards after June’s local elections, Health Minister Micheál Martin confirmed yesterday.

The country’s 11 health boards will be abolished next January and replaced by a semi-State body, the Health Service Executive (HSE), to drive the reform of the services.

Mr Martin revealed yesterday that the Government has decided health boards will be run by the chief executives without local or professional representation for the six months between June and December of this year.

“Given that legislation will be in place by January 2005 implementing the new Health Service Executive, there would be no point in appointing councillors to health boards for just six months,” he said.

Mr Martin made the announcement at the inaugural meeting of the interim Health Service Executive board in Dublin yesterday.

He said the landscape for delivering health services had changed fundamentally. By this time next year, health boards, which have run the health service for over 30 years, will be abolished.

The new Health Service Executive will take over the expenditure of the annual €10 billion health budget and be in charge of 100,000 staff.

Mr Martin said this is the most significant change ever conceived for the existing system. “Change of this order is difficult, and even more so when the change involves structures, and business processes as well as culture and behaviour,” Mr Martin added.

When the Health Service Executive is up and running it will have to design a delivery system for the new health service. This will include:

The National Hospitals Office.

Primary, Continuing and Community Care Directorate.

The National Shared Service Centre.

Over the next three years the appropriate structures and people will have to be put in place to ensure the smooth delivery of the service.

Mr Martin said the HSE board will have to ensure the new system is capable of delivering the quality and quantum of service demanded by the public, and hold the executive to account for its management of the health delivery system.

One of its first tasks will be to appoint a chief executive with the experience to deliver on the changed agenda and ensure high-quality service delivery.

The new HSE board will be chaired by former AIB managing director Kevin Kelly.

The General Council of County Councils, representing more than 500 councillors, could not be reached for comment last night on Mr Martin’s revelation that councillors will not be re-appointed to health boards after next June.

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