Fórsa has said it will instruct HSE staff to cease cooperation with interim agreements for the implementation of community healthcare organisations (CHOs) before the end of July.
The warning came after a frustrating meeting with senior HSE officials over a health department decision not to proceed with network pilots until a Sláintecare implementation plan is launched at some unspecified future date.
The union action will include stopping cooperation with reporting and governance arrangements. Interim reporting relationships in the CHO structures currently govern local reports to the heads of four functions: mental health, primary care, social care, and health and wellbeing.
The union had deferred action until last week’s meeting. But its officials were stunned that no health department officials attended the discussion, which was meant to address Fórsa’s concerns.
The decision to withdraw cooperation from interim arrangements came in response to the absence of assurances that the CHO programme will be rolled out in advance of the full implementation of the ten-year Sláintecare reform programme.
Fórsa’s head of health Éamonn Donnelly accused the health department of side-stepping the real issues, and doing a major disservice to health service users, by pulling the proposed pilots. “The transition to Sláintecare will be much smoother if solid community healthcare structures are in place. These important reforms will be stymied unless the planned new structures are developed quickly,” he said.
SláinteCare is a ten-year plan for the introduction of quality healthcare, free at the point of need, which has been backed by all the main political parties.
“Community services are the bedrock of these ambitious plans for fair, affordable, high-quality health services, and it’s perfectly possible to establish structures that can be smoothly adapted to SláinteCare if and when it’s implemented,” according to Éamonn Donnelly, the union’s head of health and welfare.
Talks on staffing and structural issues related to the roll-out of the CHOs got underway in January, but momentum has been lost. Nine new ‘community healthcare organisations’ (CHOs) have been established to manage and deliver the provision of primary and community care services across the country. The negotiations between Fórsa and the HSE have focussed on management and governance structures, qualifications and reporting relationships in the new bodies.