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The incoming Chair of the HSE board has told this newspaper that he is confident that the new governance arrangement will work well, despite recent and ongoing changes at the top of the HSE.
Asked whether disruption will be caused by the fact that there were two HSE Director Generals (DGs) last year (Mr Tony O’Brien, Mr John Connaghan), a current interim DG (Ms Anne O’Connor), and a process
to appoint a new DG underway, Mr Ciarán Devane, designate Chair of
the HSE board, told the Medical Independent (MI) that this should
not be a problem.
“I think there are lots of moving parts,” said Mr Devane, who addressed
the recent National Health Summit in Croke Park on the issue of
implementing reform in the health service. “But there are always lots of
“I think we just have to make sure that we ensure that it moves as
smoothly and effectively as possible.”
The current interim DG Ms O’Connor also addressed the conference,
admitting that the Executive faced challenges around recruitment
and retention of medical staff and industrial relations issues.
However, Ms O’Connor spoke of the winter period as a positive aspect
of recent HSE planning.
“Over the winter period, there was very significant improvement. In
previous years, you would have seen a lot of headlines, a lot of discussion
about a trolley crisis,” she said.
“We saw very little of that this year. Now, that was about doing things differently. We looked at a more integrated response… additional funding… using community services to keep people away from hospitals.
“The facts speak for themselves in terms of the performance across our acute hospitals over that period of time. So even though we were seeing increased attendances up 3 or 4 per cent in January… in the middle of that, our trolley numbers came down by 14 per cent. Now, that wasn’t because we didn’t have people turning up. We had a flu season that wasn’t as bad, but that was completely drowned-out by a lot of other conditions that had people turning up at hospitals. The attendances were higher, the admissions higher, and yet we kept the trolleys much lower.”
Former HSE DG Mr Tony O’Brien told the National Health Summit that he “would never suggest to merge the entirety of what the HSE does [with the Department of Health].”
However, Mr O’Brien said there were “functions that are duplicated” and there was an “artificial separation” created between the top of the HSE and the Department.