HOPE Gives Ireland Strong Lobby Voice In Europe

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Gerry O'Dwyer and Eamonn Fitzgerald
Gerry O’Dwyer, Eamonn Fitzgerald

HOPE had given Ireland a very strong voice to lobby in Europe, to share with colleagues improved care pathways for patients and to compare and contrast how services were delivered in the different European countries, HOPE President, Eamonn Fitzgerald, told a seminar organised by HMI.

There was also the opportunity to participate in an annual exchange programme for Health Managers in member countries.

Mr. Fitzgerald is a Council Member of the HMI and Managing Director of UPMC, Ireland.

He said HOPE had been created in 1966 in Rome.  It consisted of 36 organisations in the 27 EU Member States plus Switzerland, Serbia and the UK.  It covered almost 80% of hospital activity in the EU and almost all the research developed in hospitals, primary care centres and in social care. Its membership made it a mirror of European diversity.

It was open to public or private and public and private organisations.  There were three kinds of members – National Hospital Associations, Federations of Local and Regional Authorities, National Health Services/Ministries of Health.

Its main activities were influence and representation, identifying the impact of EU policy at a national level and advocating a common position.  This was done through monitoring, participation in public consultations, direct contacts with Commission, amendments, partnerships and joint actions and participating as advisers in projects, boards and programmes.

It facilitated knowledge and exchange through comparative studies (produced in EU Projects or internally), publications, newsletters, social networks and website, the Exchange Programme for health professionals and Study Tours, Conferences, EU Projects  and Influence & Representation.

HOPE had produced a monthly internal HOPE newsletter presenting EU developments and national health care news since February 2003. It also produced a monthly external HOPE Newsletter: HOPE News and Update and an Official Reference Book “Hospital Healthcare Europe” (since 1998) A monthly internal HOPE newsletter presenting EU developments and national health care news  had been published since February 2003)  and the website provided an update on policies and key figures. There was an annual HOPE Agora Report

EU competences were in principle limited. Article 168 said, “Union action in the field of public health shall fully respect the responsibilities of the Member States for the definition of their health policy and for the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care and the allocation of the resources assigned to them.”

Mr. Fitzgerald said HOPE  organised twice a year study tours on specific topics, such as  day surgery, contracting,  transplantation, coordination of care, quality of care and virtual hospital.

It had considerable expertise which enabled it to participate in EU Projects.  Calls were launched by the EU Commission on specific issues and it had a knowledge of the EU bubble.

The HOPE Exchange Programme was for healthcare professionals involved in the management of healthcare services across Europe.   The Exchange was for a 4-week period in another European country. The theme for the 2024 Programme was “Keeping our health workforce”.

The programme aimed to lead to better understanding of the functioning of healthcare and hospital systems within the EU and neighbour countries, by facilitating co-operation and exchange of best practices. The HOPE Exchange Programme 2024 would conclude with the HOPE Agora, which would take place from June 7 – 9, 2024 in Brussels.

Mr. Fitzgerald said that managers had much to gain from this programme.   It provided sustainable individual development of managers and professionals in an European healthcare setting, new ideas and new ways of addressing challenges in the participants’ own organisation and in the healthcare system, better and more complex understanding of their own healthcare system and the European healthcare system in general, challenges and possible solutions, new perspective on manager’s own position, challenges and possibilities and access to a European network of healthcare professionals.

The seminar was joined by four former participants of the HOPE Exchange Programme –  Ray Healy, Director of Registration, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI).Joseph Ruane, Head of Service, Primary Care, CHO Midlands Louth Meath, HSE, Jude O’Neill, Chief Operating Officer, Orpea Residences Ireland and Jillian Connolly, General Manager, National Forensic Mental Health Service, HSE.  They re-iterated the value of the HOPE Exchange Programme and its beneficial effect on their careers.  They had, they said, learned not only from the countries they visited as part of the Exchange but from the information they gained from the other members of their Exchange Programmes and would strongly recommend it. The Programme and exchanging with colleagues around Europe  had brought new energy and enthusiasm to their careers.

Siobhan Regan National Coordinator For Ireland of the HOPE Exchange Programme, said the Programme had started in 1981.  It was initially a 12 week programme but now covered four weeks.  About 140 Healthcare professionals from 24 countries participated in the exchange each year,  There was learning from both those who went on the exchange and those who hosted these exchanges. 

Gerry O’Dwyer, Director of Education, HMI, said the HOPE Exchange Programme was supported by government and health agencies across Europe and open to all middle and senior managers. Ireland had a long standing relationship with HOPE.   Eamonn Fitzgerald was now the President and Denis Doherty, former HMI President was also a former President of HOPE. 

Applications for the 2024 Exchange Programme have now closed, but people should start thinking about the 2025 Progamme.

The meeting was chaired by HMI Council Member, Phillipa Withero, HSE Asst. National Director for HR and sponsored by GSK.