Minister favours close aide for top job overseeing shake-up within system
HEALTH Minister James Reilly is expected to appoint one of his key executives to the new post of director general in the Health Service Executive (HSE), it was learned yesterday.
Tony O'Brien, who is currently head of the Special Delivery Unit in the Department of Health, and a close confidante of the minister, is the favourite for the post.
Dr Reilly, who outlined the new legislation which is due to be passed later this year underpinning the shake-up of the top tier of the HSE, has reserved the right to pick the candidate for the post of director general.
The changes will see the abolition of the HSE board and the post of chief executive as well as the existing 10 directors.
They will be replaced by a director general and six newly created director positions.
Dr Reilly's preference for having a close aide in the top job, for which there is still no salary figure, came after confirmation by chief executive Cathal Magee that he will step down.
Mr Magee will remain in the post for the coming weeks while the transition takes place but he told the Irish Independent yesterday he would not be applying for the job of director general.
"The legislation published today abolishes the post of chief executive and that is singularly the reason at this time that it is appropriate for me to say that I will not be an applicant for the job of director general."
The €322,000-a-year chief who had three years of his five- year contract to run said he will not be asking for any compensation package and will also waive pension rights arising out of the abolition of the role.
He described his relationship with Dr Reilly, who has a reputation for being volatile, as "businesslike".
Asked to describe Dr Reilly's personality, he said: "There are no issues impacting on my decision which have to do with the minister. If this legislation was not going through I would have remained."
Asked why he was willing to walk away without any golden handshake, he said: "I did not think it appropriate in the current financial circumstances. It would have had to come from the health budget."
He warned, however, that despite claims by the Department of Health that frontline services should not be cut, it was inevitable that some hospitals would have to shut wards to save money as the health service faces a €281m overrun.
This is because several beds are being kept open only through the use of agency staff. But these will have to be cut as part of the spending axe.
Earlier Dr Reilly said the decision to go was Mr Magee's own and he respected it. "Mr Magee is a man I respect and I respect his decision," he said.
The six new director posts will be advertised within the health service and candidates will have to go for interview.
Dr Reilly said that the changes would see the Department of Health get back control over the health budget.