Northern Ireland’s largest union says the health service has plunged into major crisis, branding the management system “not fit for purpose”.
The stark warning from Unison was made as a damning report was published this week after an outbreak of pseudomonas, which claimed the lives of four babies.
Among the bleak findings of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) review was the recommendation to replace the neonatal unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, where three babies died in the outbreak.
The review stated that the Belfast Health Trust should have declared the pseudomonas outbreak sooner, and criticised a lack of communication between health officials.
Unison, however, said this is just the latest in a long line of problems in every health trust in the province.
Patricia McKeown, Unison regional secretary, said there is an immediate need to overhaul the management system across all the five trusts.
“We are in crisis. We have warned about the problems in the NHS for the last six years. It has just exploded,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
Ms McKeown said the union has consistently warned Health Ministers and chiefs that the management system is “not working”.
She added: “There are very good, dedicated managers in the health service, but they have either had their power to make decisions removed or they never had it in the first place.”
Ms McKeown said that after the five ‘super trusts' were established in 2007, management accountability “disappeared”.
However, a spokesman for the Belfast Trust said: “We deliver services within a structure that was decided upon regionally.”
He said any changes to the structure are a matter for the Department of Health.
The South Eastern Health Trust “strongly refutes” the suggestion that the trust is in crisis.
The Northern Trust did not wish to comment.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said he is imposing measures on the Belfast Trust to improve accountability.