HSE interim director general to be appointed by July 1st

Temporary Tony O’Brien successor likely to be one of three HSE senior executives

An interim director general of the Health Service Executive will be appointed by the beginning of July although recruitment to find a full-time successor for Tony O'Brien will only start next week, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

The political temperature has focused on the future of Mr O’Brien and the remainder of his tenure as HSE director general. He is due to vacate his position at the end of June.

The process for recruiting his replacement has been stalled, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. The Department of Health needed some time to define the role of the director general, he said.

The interim director is likely to be an existing HSE senior executive. The pool of candidates for the full-time post is likely to depend on the salary offered ultimately by the Government.

Deputy directors general

The HSE has two deputy directors general: John Connaghan, who is chief operations officer; and Dean Sullivan, who is chief strategy and planning officer. Both could be in the running for interim director general, as could current HSE finance chief, Stephen Mulvaney.

Mr Connaghan joined the HSE in 2017 from the National Health Service in Scotland, where he held three different chief executive positions, with responsibility for some of the largest teaching hospitals in the country. He has also spent some time as interim director general and chief executive of the NHS with accountable officer status for £12.5 billion and 156,000 staff.

Mr Sullivan joined the HSE from the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board where he was director of commissioning, with responsibility for the strategic planning of health and social care services for the population of Northern Ireland. He worked previously as a senior civil servant for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, overseeing improvements in waiting times across a range of hospital and community services.

Mr Mulvaney, who is the HSE’s chief financial officer, has held a number of senior positions in the Irish health service over recent years.

Pay levels

He is a chartered accountant with a postgraduate diploma in information technology for managers. He was previously HSE national director for mental health and, prior to that, was regional director of operations in the Dublin/North East area.

The current HSE director general is paid€192,000 a year and it is understood that the Department of Health has been in contact with the Department of Public Expenditure about future pay.

The HSE post was generally seen to be on the same grade as the post of Garda commissioner.

The Irish Times reported that the Government had agreed in December that a pay deal of up to €250,000 could be offered to the next Garda commissioner.

However, accommodation costs and education fees for dependant children may also form part of the package for the next Garda commissioner if an international candidate is selected for the role.

Minsters were also told last December that a new Garda commissioner may also want to appointed a small team of advisers on a contract basis.

Any decision to offer a similar package for the new head of the HSE could make the position more attractive for international candidates.