Local health services will be undermined, and SláinteCare reforms stymied, unless planned new primary and community health structures are quickly put in place, Fórsa has warned.
The union has accused the HSE of stalling on the establishment of community healthcare organisations (CHOs) pending the introduction of SláinteCare reforms. Fórsa national secretary Éamonn Donnelly says this could mean inadequate and inefficient community services – themselves a pillar of SláinteCare proposals – for half a decade or more.
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.
Éamonn wrote to the HSE’s head of employee relations last week to say Fórsa would pull out of discussions on the operation of CHOs – including interim reporting mechanisms – unless it got assurances that agreed structures would be implemented as quickly as possible.
“SláinteCare did not win cross-party and public support as an excuse to leave things as they are for half a decade. 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.
“We can’t allow the HSE to stymie the development of better community health services today on the grounds that there’ll be another initiative along tomorrow,” he said.
Talks on staffing and structural issues related to the roll-out of the CHOs got underway in January, but Donnelly said momentum had been lost in recent weeks amid indications that the HSE was considering shelving the initiative until SláinteCare was in place.
Nine new ‘community healthcare organisations’ (CHOs) have been put in place 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.
Interim reporting relationships in the CHOs currently govern local reports to the heads of four functions: mental health, primary care, social care, and health and wellbeing.