Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is to re-structure the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council following recent resignations, saying the events have "cast a shadow over the real progress that has been made".

Gastroenterology Professor Anthony O'Connor announced he was quitting SIAC on Friday. He is the third person to step down from the health service reform programme in recent weeks.

Laura Magahy, the full-time Executive Director of the programme, and Professor Tom Keane, the Chairperson of the Council, resigned last month.

Mr Donnelly said that as the Council had been due to expire later this month, he will create a new group to advise his department on Regional Health Areas which are due to be established.

It is understood the minister hopes that by giving the new committee a more focused mandate it will enable the members to deliver results.

In a letter last night, Minister Donnelly said: "A number of members of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council have kindly agreed to join this new group and I am hugely grateful."

He stated that he was aware that "many are concerned about our waiting lists". He added: "I am equally concerned and I am establishing a taskforce to tackle our waiting lists."

However, he added: "Recent events have cast a shadow over the real progress that has been made in terms of increasing capacity.

"We have delivered record annual increases in staff and bed numbers, and increased our critical care capacity by 25% since the beginning of 2020."

The letter from the Minister was to the outgoing members of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council .

Eddie Molloy, a serving member of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council has confirmed that he will be part of the new group focused on the regionalisation of the health service.

Mr Molloy welcomed its establishment, describing it as "very constructive".

He said that it should help to accelerate a move to regionalisation.