Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Bertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
The Government regrets that Professor Aidan Halligan will not take up the job of leading the new Health Service Executive. We respect the reasons he has given for his decision. Professor Halligan made his decision clear to Kevin Kelly, the chairman of the interim HSE last week. Mr. Kelly kept the Tánaiste informed on all aspects of the transition to the new HSE. There will be no loss of momentum in the reform programme. Interviews for the second tier of management are completed and announcements about that level of senior management will be made. Professor Halligan has opted to stay in the health service in Britain. It is his decision and I respect it.
We have worked on the legislation giving effect to the reform programme over the past three years. We have worked through all the agencies, including IMPACT and the other unions. They are clear about the structure; it has long been outlined to them. Nobody will lose their position or have their conditions changed. That was made clear from the outset.
Obviously, in the reform of a health service there will be changes, including in the structures. The health boards are gone and the legislation has been passed. We must reform the health service. This is a small country and 100,000 people work in the service. We spend €11 billion per year on the service so obviously there will be changes and reforms along the way. We will have to deal with those issues as we proceed. I hope the trade union leaders will engage with the changes and the restructuring. There is no need to attempt to ratchet up concerns or fears among ordinary staff members who are doing a good job and most of whom are unlikely to experience change in any significant manner.
It will be the Government's job to put the Health Service Executive in place, resource it and, as the Deputy said, try to provide a better service in a more meaningful way. That is what is necessary and it is set out in the programme. The programme is being followed and it is clear from the Brennan report, the Prospectus report and other initiatives what the Government is endeavouring to do.