The HSE's new €80,000-a-year chairman warned yesterday a revamped board will be holding senior staff accountable for their performance in managing its finances and quality of care.
Dublin-born Ciarán Devane, who is a charity chief in the UK, is taking over the part-time role at the helm of the revived HSE board at a time when the spending is having to be reined in with curbs on overtime and use of agency staff as well as some recruitment.
Speaking at the board's first meeting yesterday, he said it would be "scrutinising the HSE" at all levels.
Mr Devane, whose uncle is former RTÉ GAA legend Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. He is chief of the British Council, the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.
He said it's important to recognise the "huge advances" made in the health service. One of the "untold stories" is that in Ireland people's life expectancy "goes up three months" every year.
Former health minister James Reilly asked the last HSE board to resign in 2011 as part of his plan to abolish the HSE which did not materialise.
The new board has been give more authority and clout.
It includes patient advocate Mark Molloy, who highlighted Portlaoise Hospital baby deaths, as well as former Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay and one-time GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl.
Health Minister Simon Harris said an organisation the size of the HSE needed a board for proper governance. It will no longer be abolished but will have new functions in the future under the Sláintecare plan for the health service.
"The chairman of the board accounts to me," he added.
Asked about the HSE's delayed capital plan, setting out the timetable for much-needed hospital extensions, extra beds and equipment replacement, he said it will be published in the coming weeks. The plan has been delayed because of the potential impact of the cost escalation in the National Children's Hospital to €1.7bn on spending on other projects.
He said yesterday that now the summer economic statement has been published by the Government there is much more "clarity" around the funding of the new hospital and its implications.
"The HSE needs to know where it stands to be able to move ahead with planning and tendering," he said.
Opposition TDs have criticised the failure to produce a capital plan and have questioned what impact the hospital cost will have on other projects.