Reform of the health service is on shaky ground following the departure of managerial expert David Hanly, it was claimed tonight.
Opposition parties urged Health Minister Mary Harney to clarify the position of the controversial Hanly Report after its chief author failed to have his Government contract renewed.
Labour Party Health spokeswoman Liz McManus said: “I get the impression that the health service is pretty rudderless.
“Is she saying the Hanley report is now dead and buried or simply adrift?”
The opposition party said the Tánaiste must now make a “clear statement” after Mr Hanly confirmed that his contract had not been renewed by the Health Department.
“It is extraordinary that we haven’t heard one word from the Minister since before Christmas about the health service, with the Health Service Executive coming into play on January 1 and the worst crisis in the A&E wards,” she said.
The management consultant was originally appointed to help implement the reform of the acute hospital service across the country – the report was then published in June 2003 as the Government’s plan for a new hospital system.
It proposed that only larger hospitals should have accident and emergency departments.
The businessman was also given the job of chairing a group responsible for deciding which hospitals were given particular services under the second phase of the report.
However, Mr Hanly’s report caused problems with consultants after it advocated the downgrading of certain services and centralisation of the health system.
Mr Hanly said he had not yet met Mary Harney over the failure to renew his contract, which expired at the end of December.
Ms McManus said the uncertainty over the report was “demoralising” for workers across the health service.
Citing the example of Loughlinstown Hospital, which lies in her Wicklow constituency, she said it would be a “nightmare” if the Hanley report was implemented and the accident and emergency ward was downgraded.
It would mean the full services of the accident and emergency wards, which were overcrowded with 22 patients on trolleys only days ago, would be removed