IMPACT has said it believes health unions could support many of the proposals put forward by health minister Simon Harris at the Oireachtas Committee of the Future of Health Care today (Wednesday). IMPACT, which represents health and social care professionals, and health service clerical, administrative and managerial staff, said it supported the view that the HSE could be significantly downsized, and that a small number of integrated regional health groups could better perform most of its functions while reporting directly to the Department of Health.
IMPACT national secretary Eamonn Donnelly said this vision was reflected in the evidence submitted to the Oireachtas Committee by ICTU health unions last November.
“I fully agree that structural reforms, and the development of services, must be planned over a ten-year time frame. In our submission to the Oireachtas Committee, IMPACT and other ICTU health unions proposed that the HSE be replaced with four well-resourced regional health authorities, which would have responsibility for all community and hospital services in their area. This is very close to what the Minister said at the Committee today.
“The current structure of seven hospital groups and nine community health organisations is unlikely to work, and it is already struggling to achieve integrated hospitals, community services and health promotion. Such integration is a precondition of dealing with many of the problems in our health service, including the A&E crisis and unacceptable waiting lists,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said it would be a mistake to make the health department directly responsible for service delivery, and said the regional health authority model would serve citizens best.
“I think we can find much common ground with Minister Harris so long as he also recognises the need for proper resourcing and staffing across the health service, and if he listens to the experience and concerns of his reform-fatigued staff, for whom this would be the third fundamental structural change in health service configuration in less than 15 years,” he said.
IMPACT rejected any suggestion that the health service is overburdened with administrative staff. The union says clerical, administrative and management staff together represent just 10.5% of total health service staffing – down from over 16% in 2007 – with the vast majority delivering services to patients or clients, or directly supporting doctors, nurses and other health professionals. The few that aren’t on the so-called front line perform vital behind the scenes tasks in IT, human resource management, payroll, service management, legislative and information roles, and other support functions, it says.
IMPACT represents some 30,000 health service workers including health and social care professionals, as well as clerical, administrative and managerial staff.