Bring back ‘accountable’ health boards, urges former vice chairperson of health forum

A local city councillor is calling for the re-instatement of the health boards which were abolished in January 2005.

Cllr Catherine Connolly, the former vice chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum - which replaced the health board system - says the forum is “simply no replacement”.

“The health board system was far more accountable to the people and gave power to councillors particularly in relation to the allocation of budgets. The health boards in my opinion were foolishly and deliberately done away with and replaced by an unaccountable bureaucratic organisation which is not healthy for patients and certainly not healthy for society. The health boards should be re-instated immediately.

“On a positive note I believe the forum has worked extremely well as a platform or forum for councillors to table questions and motions on issues of concern to their constituents and the public at large. Indeed I would not like to see any change in the number of questions/motions permitted.”

However, she said there is no escaping the fact that the forum has “absolutely no power”.

“Under the 2004 Health Act it is given a representational/advisory role only and nothing else. It is accepted by all councillors on the forum that by and large our motions calling for specific actions of one type or another and/or desisting from some action from/by the HSE West and or the HSE nationally have been utterly ignored. The motions largely have floundered in what one of our colleagues, Declan Bree [Sligo councillor] has called the Bermuda Triangle. Given our experience to date one could not disagree with that and I fully endorse that description.

“The implications of this for us as councillors who are responding to the situation on the ground is utterly frustrating. But more serious than our frustration are the implications for the patient who is suffering but equally importantly the implications for democracy. If the Department of Health, the HSE nationally and locally can ignore the unanimous decisions of 40 elected members then we have a serious crisis/problem on our hands as a society.”

Cllr Connolly, who was replaced as vice chairperson on the health forum on Tuesday by former mayor of Limerick, Cllr Michael Hourigan, said forum members have unanimously reiterated their opposition to a two tier health system and have repeatedly called for one based on “need and not greed and profit”.

“More specifically they have also objected to the co-location of private hospitals on public lands with varying levels of success in the region.”


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