Leaving not linked to tensions with Reilly, says Magee
HSE CHIEF executive Cathal Magee has said his decision to step down has “nothing to do” with his relations with Minister for Health James Reilly.
Dr Reilly had earlier confirmed his imminent departure after less than two years in the job, describing the decision as “Mr Magee’s and Mr Magee’s alone”.
Mr Magee, in an interview with The Irish Times, described his relations with Dr Reilly as “business-like” and said they had had robust discussions during his time at the helm of the HSE.
Rejecting reports of tensions between the two men, Mr Magee said his decision was solely motivated by the new structures Dr Reilly intends to introduce in the health service, which he announced yesterday. These will bring the HSE back under the direct control of the Department of Health, with the post of chief executive being replaced by a director general answerable to the secretary general of the department.
He said the proposed new post was very different from the one he occupied. “I came into a CEO’s job. The new role will see the vote moving back to the department, and the Minister, and the department will take hands-on, day-to- day responsibility.”
He warned that beds would have to be closed and services reduced in the second half of this year if the HSE was to cut its €280 million cost overrun.
He had been considering stepping down for some months and had flagged his intentions beforehand.
Last Friday he told the department secretary general in a letter that he wouldn’t be an applicant for the new post, but would stay on until “the appropriate time” when the changeover was completed.
News of Mr Magee’s departure, revealed in yesterday’s Irish Times, dominated Dr Reilly’s press conference to announce changes to structures in the health services.
Dr Reilly praised Mr Magee’s “public-spiritedness” in waiving any compensation due on the remaining three years of his contract. He denied Mr Magee was pushed or that he was engaging in a “purge” of top health officials.
He thanked Mr Magee for his contribution to the health services and stressed that he would remain in his post for an interim period. The HSE would still have to remain within budget, he stressed.
The post of director general is being filled from within the health service so Mr Magee is not likely to be staying for longer than a few months.
Mr Magee said he had decided to waive any right to compensation for the remaining three years of his contract because of the “national circumstances” and the ailing financial state of the HSE.
He attributed the HSE’s financial problems to greater-than-expected use of health services in the first half of the year. Some of this was the result of its success in cutting the number of patients on trolleys and on waiting lists, he said.
Spending would now have to be contained by reducing outlay on agency staff and overtime, and making savings in negotiations on drugs prices with the pharmaceutical sector.
The effect of using fewer agency staff would be that beds would have to closed, though how many wasn’t clear at this stage, he said.