HSE chief to leave his post in summer

Tony O’Brien says he will not seek extension of term as director-general

The head of the HSE Tony O’Brien is to step down from his position in the summer. Video: HSE


The Government is expected to hold an open competition to find a new head of the Health Service Executive following the announcement on Tuesday by Tony O’Brien that he is to step down from his position in the summer.

Mr O’Brien told HSE staff on Tuesday he would not be seeking to have his term as director-general extended when it expires in August.

Mr O’Brien has been director-general of the HSE since 2013.

In a video message to staff, he said he had made the decision last summer that he did not want to have his term of office extended and he had spoken to the Minister for Health Simon Harris about it at that time.

Mr O’Brien said he had formally notified the Minister last week that he would be leaving so Mr Harris could initiate a process to find a successor.

Mr Harris said he wanted to thank Mr O’Brien for his leadership of the organisation for the past six years and his strong commitment to health reform.

“The director-general will remain in his role until the end of the summer and I have been assured that his focus over the coming months will be on continuing his important work.”

“The position of director-general of the HSE is a vital one, and this lead-in time will allow the recruitment process to now commence, so that it can be filled in a timely manner,” the Minister said.

Chief executive

The Government plans to re-establish a board of the HSE under new reforms and it is likely that a successor to Mr O’Brien will be appointed as chief executive rather than as director-general.

In his video message to staff Mr O’Brien said since he took up the job, on an acting basis initially, in August 2012, they had achieved a lot together in difficult circumstances.

He said even in the years when resources were scarce the HSE had managed to increase services, both in range and quality.

While he will be leaving the health service in the summer, he intends to remain as a first responder with the National Ambulance Service.

Mr O’Brien acknowledged many of the challenges that existed in the Irish healthcare system, particularly around emergency department overcrowding and access.

However he told staff: “While we still have quite a way to go, there has been considerable progress in important areas such as, for example, the establishment of the national women and infants’ health programme; the e-health and electronic health records programme; the development of a long-awaited new architecture for ICT and logistics, the introduction of the open disclosure policy and how we respond today in comparison to the past when things go wrong.”

He also pointed to achievements in service delivery, such as stroke services, cardiac care, cancer care, acute medicine, emergency management and improvements and reinvestment in the National Ambulance Service.

Mr O’Brien said to staff “as I signal my departure from the HSE, I am very encouraged to see my efforts bearing fruit through Sláintecare”.