Deputy Thomas Pringle said issues of HSE accountability must be addressed as the Government plans to transfer responsibilities for specialist, community-based disability services to a different minister.
Deputy Pringle said the transfer makes sense on paper, but noted that delivery of the services would be retained within the HSE following the transfer.
He said: “This would mean that the HSE would be expected to report to two different ministers about different aspects of its functions.
“I’m skeptical of how this would work, because the HSE fails in being accountable to one minister, as I see it.
“What makes us think that they would properly report to two? And that is the real problem.”
Deputy Pringle addressed the Dáil yesteday afternoon on the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022, which would amend legislation to transfer policy, functions and funding responsibility relating to specialist community-based disability services from the Minister for Health to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
The bill also provides for consultation in joint functions of the ministers to provide for revised corporate governance and accountability arrangements of the HSE.
The deputy said an example of his concerns is the HSE’s handling of the Brandon report, which detailed incidents of sexual abuse at Ard na Gréine in Stranorlar.
He noted that the National Independent Review Panel report on the matter was submitted to the HSE in 2020, but when Minister Anne Rabbitte asked for a copy of this report in 2020, she told this was not possible and she would get it “in due course”.
He said the minister again asked for a copy of the report in April 2021, and was again refused.
Deputy Pringle said to Minister Rabbitte: “I would like to take this opportunity to commend you Minister, as I am certain that this report would not have been given to your department if it weren’t for your persistence.”
He said families still want the Brandon report published, and said some families whose loved ones were involved in the Brandon report have still not been contacted by the HSE, calling that “shocking”.
The deputy said: “The fact that the HSE outright refused to report to a Minister of State is incredibly concerning for me. They are supposedly a State agency, yet this shows that they are not truly answerable to the minister at all.”
He said: “It seems to me that the HSE aren’t accountable to anybody.”
“It begs the question then of how the HSE will possibly be accountable to two ministers when it so obviously and openly fails to be accountable to one,” he said, calling for the matter to be looked at further.
The deputy said he was cautious in his support of the bill.
Deputy Pringle said: “I would like to see my concerns taken on board and addressed, as I believe there have been real flaws in how interdepartmental issues are addressed in the past and this needs to change, in order to properly facilitate the future transitioning of powers from one minister to another.
“I would also like to see the accountability issues between the HSE and ministers addressed as well.”