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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Sam Boal Health Minister Stephen Donnelly
regional health areas

Government approves creation of new Regional Health Areas as part of Sláintecare reforms

There will be a total of six RHAs under the new plans approved by the Government.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS approved a plan to allow for the creation of new Regional Health Areas (RHA) to integrate both hospital and community healthcare as part of key Sláintecare reforms.

The new RHA’s will be geographically aligned sub-divisions of the HSE, who will be able to plan, fund, manage and deliver integrated healthcare in their specific region.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the plan would help deliver on the “Sláintecare vision” and that it will benefit patients and HSE staff.

“Today’s Government decision marries the benefits of a centralised delivery structure with more agile, innovative, and locally-informed decision-making,” Donnelly said.

“The implementation of Regional Health Areas and the introduction of population-based service planning are changes which will bring many benefits for both patients and staff.”

He added that the change would allow for healthcare to be provided as close as possible to a patients home.

There will be a total of six RHAs established by the Government, labelled A through F.

Under the plan, there will be clearly identifiable heads of health and social care per RHA and a population-based budget for each region.

Existing Hospital Groups and Community Healthcare Organisations (CHO’s) are also set to be stood down to allow for the implementation of RHAs, which will be introduced in a phased programme from 2023.

The RHAs are expected to be fully operational by 2024.

Sinn Féin’s Health spokesperson David Cullinane has said that the new RHAs must have the capability to tackle the issues within the healthcare system, including waiting lists and overcrowding.

He said that they were a “welcome step” but that they need “real responsibility” to tackle those challenges.

“Regional Health Areas are a welcome step towards the promises of better healthcare, but they will not be able to tackle the many vast challenges facing the health service without real responsibility,” said Cullinane.

“Regional Health Areas need to be empowered in recruitment, retention, and capital planning to act quickly.

“They will need to be agile if they are to tackle waiting lists and overcrowding.”

The plan was welcomed by Fórsa, who said that it will help ease pressures on acute hospitals.

Fórsa’s assistant general secretary Catherine Keogh said that the “highly centralised” approach to healthcare was not working.

“The current highly centralised approach to health service delivery is not working, and the bureaucratic urge to retain central control over all health operations would inhibit the delivery of universal health care and community health interventions designed to strengthen local services and reduce the burden on our creaking acute hospital system,” said Keogh.

“Sláintecare did not win cross-party and public support by saying that we should leave things as they are. Community services are the bedrock of these ambitious plans for fair, affordable, high-quality health services.”

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