New head of HSE is paid €195,000 annually


THE NEW head of the Health Service Executive Tony O’Brien will earn €195,000 a year.

The pay, which has been sanctioned by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, is just below the €200,000 ceiling set by the Government for senior managers in the non-commercial State sector.

Mr O’Brien is the de facto head of the HSE following the departure last week of its chief executive Cathal Magee. Mr Magee had a salary of about €320,000.

Mr O’Brien’s official title is deputy chief executive and director general designate of the organisation.

Mr O’Brien, who has been chief operating officer in the Department of Health’s special delivery unit on a salary of about €165,000, will become HSE director general when new legislation on reforming health service structures is passed.

Mr O’Brien’s pay relates only to the post of HSE deputy chief executive and may increase when he takes up his role as director general. The Department of Health said yesterday work still had to be finalised in relation to remuneration of directors, including the director general, in the new directorate system.

Meanwhile, in a confidential letter to senior HSE managers and regional directors, Mr O’Brien said the cost base of the healthcare system remained “too high to be sustainable given our economic circumstances”.

He said the financial situation in the HSE was “extremely serious” and that further efforts would be required. But he warned that improving the HSE’s financial position had to be balanced with improved access to healthcare.

Mr O’Brien said difficult decisions would continue to be needed “to both get us through 2012 and to develop the plan for 2013 to continue to reduce costs”.

“It is critical that every decision we make is conditioned by an objective to manage the system as fairly and equitably as possible as we endeavour to live within our means.”

He stressed that the sustained reduction and elimination of trolley waits and excessive waiting for diagnosis and treatment “must remain at the cornerstone of our collective work”.

Mr O’Brien took over as head of the HSE at the start of the week. Mr Magee left the organisation last Friday, after less than two years of a five-year term. In a message to staff, he said the handover arrangements to Mr O’Brien were complete and so it was an appropriate time for him to step down.

Mr Magee’s decision to step down was revealed by The Irish Times in mid-July and came on foot of Minister for Health Dr James Reilly’s decision to abolish the post of chief executive of the HSE and replace it with a director general and a directorate structure. The HSE will eventually be abolished.

Later it emerged that Mr Magee had repeatedly pressed the department for decisions to be taken on the financial overrun in the health services and for policy direction to deal with the situation. Dr Reilly had rejected his plans to stem the deficit by reducing activity in hospitals and in the community.