Three new elective hospitals will be built in Cork, Dublin and Galway and 7,000 community-based healthcare staff will be hired over the next three years according to ambitious Sláintecare health reform targets unveiled this morning.
There are also plans to introduce the Sláintecare Consultant Contract, which will permit public-only work in public hospitals, and to open 31 primary health care centres around the country by 2023.
They are among some of the high-profile targets set out in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2023, which has been published by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly today.
It has been developed to include the learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic, the new context within which the health system operates, and will involve investment of some €3.7bn to:
- reduce waiting lists in hospital and the community;
- invest in 32 community specialist hubs for older people and people living with chronic disease;
- provide extra health resources in 18 of Ireland’s most disadvantaged communities to address health inequalities;
- mainstream access for patients to direct diagnostics through GPs;
- develop policy proposals for achieving ‘universal eligibility’;
- create six new regional health areas and 96 new community healthcare networks to support integrated care across primary, community and acute care;
- invest in Healthy Ireland to keep people well in their own communities;
- expand innovation projects that support patient safety initiatives;
- and introduce a digital ‘shared care record’ so people have access to their health records no matter where they are being treated.
Mr Donnelly said the plan represents the next stage in “an exciting and ambitious programme” for reform of Ireland’s health system.
“Considerable progress has already been made in moving Sláintecare from vision to reality,” he said.
“Major foundational decisions have been made by Government, including the establishment of the HSE Board and the approval of the geographies for six new regional health areas, the agreement on the GP, Public Health Doctor, and Consultant public-only contracts, the widening of eligibility to citizens for general practice, as well as reduction in prescription charges to the public.
“We know that our health and social care providers have worked tirelessly throughout the last year.
“The pandemic has challenged our health services in many ways, but it has also demonstrated the willingness and eagerness of our staff and our systems to innovate and adapt for the benefit of patients.
He said now is the time to harness this energy and appetite for change to reform the health and social care service for the long-term.
Professor Tom Keane, chair of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council, said the reform programmes and the unprecedented funding that goes with it, will have a major impact on the short, medium and long term future of Ireland’s health and social care systems.
“These programmes are fully aligned to the Sláintecare vision to provide the right care in the right place at the right time and to progress the goal of delivering universal healthcare based on need rather than the ability to pay,” he said.