Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Health reform takes a step forward

The Government has this week approved a plan to allow for the creation of regional health areas as part of Sláintecare reforms.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly made the announcement on Tuesday that the Government has approved the next steps for the implementation of Regional Health Areas (RHAs).

RHAs are to be introduced in phased manner during 2023 and the new structures aim to be fully operational from 2024.

RHAs will plan, fund, manage and deliver integrated care for people in their region as geographically aligned, regional sub-divisions of the HSE. They will provide for the integration of hospital and community healthcare services creating better access to services closer to home, a statement from the Department of Health has claimed.

Cork and Kerry will be Area D and will include the current local health offices of West Cork, Cork South Lee, Cork North Lee, North Cork and Kerry. Hospitals include Bantry General Hospital, CUH, CUMH, Mallow General Hospital, Mercy University Hospital, South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital and University Hospital Kerry.

Minister Donnelly said: “RHAs will ensure the alignment of hospital and community healthcare services at a regional level, based on defined populations and their local needs which delivers on the Sláintecare vision of an integrated health and social care service.”

He said the decision “marries the benefits of a centralised delivery structure with more agile, innovative, and locally-informed decision-making.”

Leo Kearns, Chair of the Regional Health Areas Advisory Group said: “RHAs will have a ‘one budget, one system’ approach, with improved accountability and governance, more equitable resource allocation, and strengthened clinical governance.”