THE first outsider to be appointed as secretary general of the Department of Health will have to oversee the government's planned radical shake-up of services.
Dr Ambrose McLoughlin, who is is his late 50s, is the department's first secretary general to be picked from outside the ranks of the civil service, although he spent years in health administration.
He has taken a circuitous route to the €200,000 post and is currently the registrar and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the body which regulates pharmacists.
A trained dentist, he is a former chief executive of the North Eastern Health Board and was involved at a high level during some of its most turbulent controversies, including the revelations that former Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital obstetrician Michael Neary wrongly removed the wombs of a number of his patients.
He is expected to become chairman of the interim board of the HSE which is now made up entirely of health officials.
But he will also have to oversee the abolition of the HSE and the start of the promised system of universal healthcare insurance where every citizen in the State will be covered, ending the public-private mix.
It will be Dr McLoughlin's job to put systems in place to ensure the promise of change, and more immediate pledge to reduce waiting times, gather pace and do not become bogged down as the health service budget continues to shrink.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly said last night he believed his appointment would have an "invigorating effect" in the health department.
Dr Reilly said he believed the staff in the department will "welcome an injection of new blood, fresh thinking and new energy from outside as we move to introduce reforms and tackle the many problems faced in the area of health".
Dr McLoughlin's appointment follows the departure of outgoing secretary general Michael Scanlon, who is leaving on a package worth around €540,000.
Mr Scanlon, who stepped down after 38 years' service, was awarded an added-years top-up to his pension to allow him retire on the maximum 40-year pension level -- despite this being contrary to government policy.
On his retirement, Mr Scanlon receives a largely tax-free cash lump sum of €323,385. He will also receive a special severance payment of €107,795.
However, as a result of the generous pension top-up of one-and-a-half years' value, Mr Scanlon will receive an annual pension of €107,795 for the rest of his life.
Dr McLoughlin will not receive any added years following new rules for Secretary Generals appointed after November last.