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New HSE chief salary to top €366,880 as Paul Reid says he will not get exit package

Position will be advertised shortly and may attract senior civil servants


Paul Reid. Photo: Frank McGrath

Paul Reid. Photo: Frank McGrath

Paul Reid. Photo: Frank McGrath

The salary for the next HSE chief executive will be at least €366,880 under a public service agreement, it emerged yesterday.

As the hunt is set to get under way for a successor to Paul Reid, who is stepping down in December, the new health services boss can be offered a permanent and pensionable public pay package in a league of its own.

The revised top-flight salary is set out in a HSE health sector pay table, approved by the Department of Health. It will apply to all new incumbents to the post.

Mr Reid, who is cutting short his five-year term – which was due to end in May 2024 – was hired from outside the HSE on a salary of €363,915, an allowance of more than €49,127 and a benefit-in-kind of €17,298 in the form a company car.

A HSE spokeswoman said yesterday that Mr Reid would serve the required notice period of three months outlined in his contract of employment. She said “no additional exit package or severance arrangement will apply on his resignation”.

“He is not a member of the HSE pension scheme and in lieu he receives an additional allowance (of) €49,966.97 in respect of pension contribution. He will come off payroll when his employment ends,” she said.

Mr Reid’s appointment in 2019 followed almost a year-long search for a new HSE head in 2019 after an improved offer of €250,000 failed to attract top candidates.

Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin poured cold water on suggestions of another similar wooing exercise, saying the “remuneration is significant”.

Mr Martin said it was important that the Government “proceed properly” and “take time to recruit a top-class replacement for Mr Reid”.

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He added that the “job can be difficult because people keep talking about the salary the person gets”.

Mr Reid took over in 2019 from former HSE director general Tony O’Brien, a full-time public servant at that stage, who earned €190,000 before he resigned early in June 2018 on foot of the CervicalCheck controversy. The salary was increased to €250,000 months later but it did not attract suitable applicants.

The pay circular says the post of director-general of the HSE is now obsolete.

Freedom of Information documents reveal that, in the search for a HSE chief in 2018, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe was “very reluctant” for the pay to breach €300,000.

An executive search company was employed to conduct an international trawl in late 2018.

When the job will be advertised again, the enhanced public salary of €366,880 may interest senior civil servants, already earning more than €200,000, who want to stay in the public system.

However, the role of the next HSE chief will change from next year as power moves from the centre to six regional authorities, which will have new management and decision-making freedoms.

These authorities will be operational from early 2024 and are key to the Sláintecare plan to bring more rule locally, although they will not be set up as originally envisaged on a statutory footing.

Mr Reid in his resignation statement said the “HSE is now entering a new and further phase of reform and change in what we hope will ultimately be a post-pandemic world”.

He added: “I feel that the time is right to recruit and appoint a new chief executive officer at this point.”

The HSE chief executive salary compares to Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s pay of more than €217,000. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly earns more than €181,000.

The secretary-general of the Department of Health Robert Watt is on a salary of nearly €300,000, having received an €81,000 top-up to the recommended public service pay grade for the job.

The first chief executive of the HSE was paediatrician Professor Brendan Drumm, who was on a five-year contract, starting on a salary of €320,000 and a potential bonus of 25pc. He also insisted on bringing two high-paid advisers with him.

He was followed by Cathal Magee, a former interim head of Eircom, who was also on a contract of €322,000 from 2010 to 2012 when Tony O’Brien took over.

The board of the HSE, chaired by Ciaran Devane, who earns more than €80,000 and is based in the UK, is expected to set out the requirements needed in the next chief executive who will have to manage the ongoing threat from Covid-19 as well as the re-moulded HSE.

A new €187,000-a-year chief medical officer to replace Dr Tony Holohan, who retires next week, is expected to be appointed around September.

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