Sunday 20 October 2019

Reilly gets green light to merge hospitals into groups

Eilish O'Regan and Fionnan Sheahan

PLANS to carve up the hospital system into six national groups will allow them to be compared with the best facilities in the world, an expert report to be published today will claim.

Sticking to the traditional system of providing as many services as possible in every hospital is "neither sustainable nor safe", it says.

Health Minister James Reilly is due to get clearance from Cabinet this morning to press ahead with a long-awaited announcement that hospitals are to be grouped together.


Dr Reilly said yesterday the launch of the groups would amount to "the biggest reform of the hospital system since the foundation of the State".

The concerns in Waterford about the downgrading of the local hospital have also been addressed by boosting the number of consultants and academic links with UCC.

The report, obtained by the Irish Independent, sets out the logic behind the recommendations of a team of national and international experts, chaired by Professor John Higgins.

The report says it is necessary to change how the country's hospitals work.

"The traditional practice of providing as many services as possible in every hospital is neither sustainable nor safe. Experience in Ireland and beyond teaches us that a co-ordinated system of care is better for patients than a sporadic approach," it says.

The Higgins report says the formation of acute hospitals into a small number of groups, each with its own governance and management, will provide "an optimum configuration" for hospital services to deliver high-quality, safe patient care in a cost-effective manner.

"Individually, few Irish hospitals can hold their own against the best international hospital systems. But working together in larger groups they can aspire to favourable comparison with the best in the world," it says.

The setting up of the hospital groups will lead to the establishment of a hospital trust, which will allow for the introduction of Universal Health Insurance to provide:

• better patient safety.

• Better patient care.

• Better value for money.

"Each group includes at least one major teaching hospital that usually has a full range of services. This will maximise the range of services available to the population within each group and minimise the need to refer patients between the hospital groups."

Dr Reilly confirmed yesterday the plan was to bring 49 hospitals back into six groups.

"The smaller hospitals will do much more work, but it's work that is suitable to them.

"Less of that work will be done in the big hospitals and they will concentrate on the complex stuff," he said.

When asked about concerns that patient care will suffer if hospitals that had well-established links, involving the sharing of consultants and transfer of patients, are no longer in the one group, Dr Reilly said he had "no intention of doing away with traditional pathways".

Irish Independent

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