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End of an era as search begins to find Dr Tony Holohan’s successor


Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

It’s the end of an era as the search has been launched for a successor to Dr Tony Holohan as Ireland’s chief medical officer.

It comes as Ireland faces an early summer Covid-19 wave due to two more infectious variants BA.4 and BA.5 .They make up around four in ten cases of the virus here now.

The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 rose to 355 today although the number of these in intensive care fell to 22, a reduction of two from Thursday.

Dr Holohan is to retire from his role next month and the job advertisement for the €187,000 a year post has been set in motion.

The advertisement for the job says the applicant must play a “leading role shaping national policy and services.”

He or she will deliver structured and strategic evidence-based advice on medical, ethical and public health matters to the Minister for Health and the Department of Health.

Ireland has never had a female chief medical officer.

Applicants must have a specialist medical qualification from a recognised Irish post-graduate training body or the recognised equivalent of such a qualification.

The application must be submitted by June 30.

It means that Dr Holohan may have left the post before his successor is appointed. A deputy is expected to be appointed in his absence.

Dr Holohan has steered Ireland's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and has crossed swords with the Government over restrictions since the virus first appeared in early 2020.

Most of his judgment calls have proved right although there has been criticism about the reluctance to embrace antigen tests and the delay around approval of facemasks.

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Dr Holohan had planned to take up an academic role in Trinity College but this became embroiled in controversy.

He would continue to be employed by the Department of Health until his retirement.

He then decided not to take the Trinity post and opted instead to step away from his role as chief medical officer next month.

He has indicated he will be open to offers from the private sector.

Dr Holohan's deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn left the Department of Health last month to take up a job in EY consulting, a private sector firm which has provided services to the HSE.

It means the faces behind Ireland’s response to Covid-19 will be changed as another surge in autumn and winter is expected.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said today that data from the HSE Performance Management Improvement Unit (PMIU) Covid-19 system showed that at 8am on Wednesday June 8,  289 patients in acute hospitals had Covid-19 infection compared to 191 the previous Wednesday.

On June 8 there were 27 patients in ICU with the infection compared to 18 patients the previous week.

These data do not differentiate between those in hospital or ICU due to Covid or for another reason.

The increased circulation of Covid in the population is likely due to the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sublineages in Ireland.

Results from week 22 indicate that 42pc of cases are now likely to be the BA.4/BA.5 sublineage. These variants are replacing the previous dominant Omicron variant BA.2.

BA.4 and BA.5 are becoming the dominant variants in circulation across several European countries. The is likely to be due to their ability to evade immune protection caused by prior infection and/or vaccination, particularly if this immunity has waned over time.

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