Senior HSE executive resigns and takes role with VHI

Anne O’Connor was tasked with planning the HSE’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Two senior officials involved in the State’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic are to leave their roles.

They bring to three the number of  high-profile departures among the top officials and executives involved in the pandemic, with chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan saying he will step down this summer to join Trinity College Dublin.

Anne O’Connor, the HSE’s chief operating officer, is to join VHI Health and Wellbeing as managing director, HSE staff were told on Monday.

Ms O’Connor was one of the most senior executives tasked with planning the HSE’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a note to staff, chief executive Paul Reid said Ms O’Connor was one of the “key people” during Covid and also during the fallout from the cyberattack which hit the HSE in May 2021.

The chief operations officer of the Department of Health Catherine Bannon has also announced that she is leaving her role.

Ms Bannon said in a post on LinkedIn last Friday that she was entering the department’s headquarters for the last time.

The department did not respond to queries, but it is understood that Ms Bannon, a career civil servant, is leaving for another role in the civil service. She has filled the role of chief operations officer since February of last year.

In his note to staff, Mr Reid said Ms O’Connor was responsible for leading more than 100,000 staff.

She worked with the HSE since 1995, becoming national director for mental health in 2014 and national director for community operations in 2018 – later that same year she was appointed as chief operations officer and also spent five months as interim director general in 2018-2019, while the post was being filled.

Mr Reid told staff she had made an “extraordinary contribution to the health service” and had led its operations through a period of great challenge and pressure “while retaining an unwavering commitment to high quality and continuous improvement”.

“She has been a great colleague and is highly respected and admired throughout the health service,” he wrote to staff. “I am very glad that she will be continuing to contribute to healthcare services in Ireland in a very senior role and on behalf of the HSE I want to wish her very well in her new position.”