HSE chief to have lower salary than predecessor


THE NEW head of the Health Service Executive, Tony O’Brien, of the Department of Health Special Delivery Unit (SDU), will be paid “fully in accordance with the Government’s pay cap guidelines”, the Department of Health has said.

The current cap is €200,000, some €122,000 less than the outgoing chief executive of the HSE Cathal Magee was paid.

Mr Magee, who was appointed by previous minister for health Mary Harney in September 2010, offered his resignation from the post earlier this month.

Minister for Health James Reilly yesterday said Mr O’Brien, who is chief operating officer of the SDU and head of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), would become acting chief executive of the HSE before becoming director general of the restructured organisation.

The Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012, published last week, provides for the abolition of the HSE board to be replaced by a directorate and will create the post of director general. It is likely to be passed in the autumn.

Mr O’Brien (49), from Louth, is expected to take up the acting chief executive position in the coming weeks. He currently earns just under €166,000 a year.

Asked about his salary for the new post, a spokesman for the Minister said the remuneration package would be decided in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. “It will be fully in accordance with the Government’s pay cap guidelines.”

He also said there was “a window of opportunity” before Mr Magee’s departure to put in place alternative leadership arrangements for the SDU and the NTPF.

He declined to name any candidates in the running for that post.

Dr Reilly said yesterday he was satisfied Mr O’Brien had “the qualities needed to drive the essential reform required to ultimately end our two-tier health system”.

“He also has the strategic ability to manage an enhanced architecture of financial control now being placed in the HSE,” he said.

The Minister also thanked Mr Magee for his “commitment to the health service”. Mr Magee was to have served for five years, until September 2015.

Tensions within the HSE and between the HSE and the Department of Health had grown before his resignation announcement, particularly around financial pressures and the planned restructuring of the organisation.

Mr Magee’s resignation also caused tensions between the Government partners.

Labour Party Minister of State for Health Róisín Shortall said she had not been made aware of the resignation before details of it were published in The Irish Times. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore also said he had not been informed.

Yesterday, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said he was disappointed at the manner of Mr O’Brien’s appointment. He said it was “typical of the increasingly arrogant approach” of the Minister.

“Such a crucial role should have been subject to open competition,” he said. The Minister looked set to “hand-pick the entire new health service directorate”.