Outgoing HSE CEO Paul Reid said he is “feeling emotionally drained” on his last day as head of the organisation.
Mr Reid took up the role three and half years ago, but in June he announced that he would be leaving the five-year post early, saying the pandemic and HSE cyber attack took a significant toll and that he wants to dedicate more time to his family.
In a message posted on his Twitter account this morning, Mr Reid thanked his colleagues in the health service.
"Last day in the office as CEO of HSE. Feeling emotionally drained saying goodbye to staff that come to work every day to give people good care & hope. This has been the most inspirational time of my career. I'm humbled & a better person for the privilege. Thank you all,” he wrote.
Mr Reid told staff earlier this summer he could not have operated at such a high level of pressure without the support of his wife Margaret and family.
“They have made many sacrifices along the way to support me,” he said.
“I now want to give back some quality time and enjoy some space with our young granddaughter.”
His departure follows the exit of chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan in June and deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn last Spring.
HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor also left the HSE earlier this summer.
Speaking on RTÉ radio last week, Mr Reid admitted that he is “tormented” by the amount of people who died in nursing homes during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Between March 2020 and February 2022, almost 30pc of Ireland’s total deaths caused by Covid-19 occurred in nursing homes
“There's no doubt, congregated settings are not the place for people to be in pandemics and there's no doubt the learning that we had was later, in terms of its severe impact on older persons and how to protect [them],” he said.
“So yes, I do look at that period, with many learnings in my head and many tormented learnings in my head about what could we have done differently.
“The health service, in essence, manages about 20pc of the nursing homes, 80pc are private, that doesn't matter. These are all older persons who have committed their lives to this country. So yes... it’s something that torments me.”
In his resignation letter, Mr Reid cited frustrations with not being able to facilitate certain changes, but he insisted that this is not the driving force behind his decision.
The timeline of Mr Reid’s departure coincided with the row over the proposed redesign of Navan Hospital’s emergency department, but Mr Reid said the two matters are not linked.
“Specifically related to Navan, yes there were frustrations. I felt frustrations, and our board felt frustrations because we did see and we do see, a very clear patient safety risk in relation to Navan emergency department,” he said.
“We foresee a plan that will strengthen the quality of services given to Navan, through a whole redesign of services by putting in a new 24/7 emergency management assessment unit.
“Yes, the Minister wanted us to stall that and made it very clear. So, there were levels of frustration and there are and continue to be but we will work through that, we will go back to the minister with an assessment of what has to be done across the region and we'll move forward on that basis.”
Mr Reid said a public servants’ role is to “bring the best advice” to ministers and they can “act upon it or decide”. However, he said he “equally” values and respects his role as CEO and clinicians in Navan hospital have highlighted the “risks” that exist at the emergency department.
He added: “I would not like to be taken to Navan emergency hospital. I would not like one of my family to be taken there right now.”
In an interview for the book Pandemonium: Power, Politics and Ireland's Pandemic, Mr Reid said Minister Donnelly could be “perceived as being a little dismissive and not respectful” by people within the HSE.
Mr Reid acknowledged that it was his experience “at that time” but said he and Minister Donnelly have always “respected” each other.
“Let me be very clear. My decision making was a decision making with myself and my family, what was right for us at this point in time, equally considering what was right for the health service and it's not been an issue around for any relationships with ministers, etc,” he said.
The chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive job is still advertised on publicjobs.ie, with a closing date of October 13.