Planned Mid-West hospital trust ‘guaranteed to fail’

A senior consultant has described plans by the HSE to establish a trust to oversee the operation of six hospitals in the Mid-West as “rampant managerialism” and “guaranteed to fail”.

Consultant obstetrician Dr Gerry Burke was reacting to plans by Ann Doherty, chief executive of the Mid-West acute hospital network, to establish a trust to oversee the work of Limerick Regional, St John’s Hospital, Ennis General, Nenagh General, the Maternity Hospital, Limerick, and Croom Orthopaedic that has a combined budget this year of €200m.

Ms Doherty presented a discussion paper on her plans to Limerick Regional Hospital’s medical board this week where Dr Burke was in attendance.

In an email to local TDs, Dr Burke said: “To say that what was presented was disappointing would be a gross understatement.

“What is currently being proposed amounts to rampant managerialism: the emphasis is clearly on managerial processes and economism, rather than on the community’s need for decent clinical services.”

He said it was “becoming obvious that what is intended is a sort of mini puppet-government for the hospitals that will have very little or no local democratic say-so, one that will be answerable to the minister for health rather than the local community and that will continue to rely on Department of Finance funding”.

“The new system is being designed in a way that makes failure inevitable — it is guaranteed. In effect, what is being proposed is a dwarf version of the HSE with most of that failed entity’s faults built into it and reinforced.”

Dr Burke predicted it will fail for four reasons — “its lack of community control, its inability to self-fund, its hierarchically authoritarian structure that will alienate its staff and its focus on managerialism”.

Clare Fianna Fáil TD, Timmy Dooley said yesterday: “Dr Burke is a senior member of the Labour Party in Limerick and does his intervention suggest that the government parties are at loggerheads over the future of acute hospital services in the Mid-West?”

In a recent address, Ms Doherty said the trust “will not be an exercise in centralisation of services at the expense of the smaller hospitals”.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said the proposals “are part of a working paper and consultation with all of the stakeholders has yet to take place”.

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