Robert Watt should head up both HSE and Department of Health to justify salary, Cowen says

Secretary general of Department of Health on salary of €294,920 as Fianna Fáil TD urges his parallel appointment to role being vacated by Paul Reid

Robert Watt should be made secretary general of both the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE), Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has said.

The outgoing chief executive of the HSE, Paul Reid, has said he will be stepping down from the role in October this year, two months earlier than expected.

“Following earlier notification at end June 2022, I’ve advised staff in the HSE that I will be stepping down as CEO on October 3rd. I’ll then take up a period of annual leave. I’ll truly miss leading the most committed workforce in the country in some of the toughest of times,” Mr Reid said in a post on Twitter on Tuesday.

Mr Cowen said this presented an opportunity to “finally end the dysfunction between the Department of Health and the HSE”, which he says are “absorbing resources competing with one another that instead should be focused on patients”.


He also said Mr Watt’s salary would be “justified were he to take charge of both”. Mr Watt confirmed earlier this year he is in receipt of the full €294,920 salary for his job as secretary general of the Department of Health.

“The HSE and the Department of Health need to be restructured to look at health in two ways, acute and community, rather than in the current method which appears to look at healthcare with 57 different varieties of views, structures and teams.

“The HSE and the department should have one chief executive overseeing healthcare in Ireland. It is time to end the political footballs between the department and the HSE, and reform services for the patients,” Mr Cowen said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times