Four positions on Hiqa board not filled by Reilly


Four positions on the board of the Health Information and Quality Authority have been left unfilled by Minister for Health James Reilly since last May despite warnings from officials about the dangers of leaving the posts vacant, documents reveal.

In January 2012, outgoing chairman Pat McGrath warned the Minister of a significant loss of expertise in corporate and business management when his own term of office and that of five board members ended in May.

With the death of one board member and the resignation of another, a total of eight vacancies arose.

In March, Dr Reilly decided to reappoint Mr McGrath for an interim period of one year.

Mr McGrath pointed out to the Minister that four of the outgoing members were chairs of very important board committees. “This would result in a huge loss of the ‘organisational memory’ of the authority at board level,” he wrote.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan decided that three board members, Sheila O’Connor of Patient Focus, nursing professor Geraldine McCarthy and manager Dolores Quinn, did not need to reapply through the public process.

Mr McGrath urged the Minister to consider their reappointment and the department said it saw “no reason to object”.

Dr Reilly subsequently ordered that all applications for State boards, including those seeking reappointment, must go through the public process.

In the event, the Minister chose not to reappoint the three women.

A total of 40 applications were received through the public system. Officials who carried out a shortlisting exercise found that the vast majority of applications were “of a high standard reflecting the high calibre of the candidates”.

In September, Mr McGrath wrote again to Dr Reilly warning that the authority had the “bare minimum” for a quorum.

He relayed concerns expressed at the audit committee about the delay in appointing members.

Later that month, Dr Reilly appointed three members, of whom only one, pharmacist Darragh O’Loughlin, had applied through the public system. The other two appointees were David Molony, from Mallow, Co Cork, and Sheila O’Malley, a retired Department of Health official.

Mr McGrath wrote again to the Minister in October urging action on the remaining four board vacancies, but no appointments have been made.

Vacancies have been left for months on the boards of several other bodies under the Minister’s remit. However, the department said yesterday that Dr Reilly had made two appointments to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service board – Dr Paul Browne, a consultant haematologist at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, and John Cregan, director of the HSE’s regional health office.