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Paul Reid raised issue of ‘unwarranted slurs’ against HSE staff with Department of Health


Outgoing HSE chief Paul Reid. Photo: Frank McGrath

Outgoing HSE chief Paul Reid. Photo: Frank McGrath

Outgoing HSE chief Paul Reid. Photo: Frank McGrath

Outgoing HSE chief Paul Reid accused the Department of Health of “unwarranted slurs” on his staff in a row over leaked recordings of department meetings.

Mr Reid said it was “beyond belief” that a 45-minute meeting had seen the HSE discussed in such a “disparaging and damaging manner”.

In a message to Department of Health secretary general Robert Watt, the CEO of the HSE said there was a lack of “any basic standards of respect” for colleagues, which was revealed by the tapes.

The email followed reports in the Business Post based on secret recordings of meetings of department staff which were highly critical of the HSE.

They contained references to “fake targets”, concerns about the health service’s “financial sloppiness”, and the credibility of health budgets.

On the day the meetings were first reported, Mr Reid directly emailed Mr Watt to say what had emerged was “extremely disappointing and frustrating”. Mr Reid said they had jointly agreed an approach on recruitment and the treatment of the HSE financial accounts for last year.

He wrote: “The fact that a 45-minute meeting appears to have been dominated by such commentary is beyond belief.”

Later, he said: “Any basic standards of respect for colleagues or decent management behaviours appear to be lacking, by quoted attendees at the referenced meeting.”

Mr Reid said he appreciated calls had been made the day before by department staff to apologise about what was about to be reported. He also said the chairman of the HSE had been in touch to express the “frustrations” of the board.

Mr Reid added: “I do take my duty of care for staff seriously. Therefore, I would appreciate your views as to how it can be arranged for a full and complete retraction of these remarks and inferences made. Left as they are, they leave utterly unwarranted slurs on reputations.”

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In response, Mr Watt said he didn’t think further correspondence from the board was necessary and said that they could “take it up this week”.

Records released under Freedom of Information (FoI) also detail how Mr Watt wrote to all department staff following the leaked recordings about how seriously it was being taken.  

Other internal emails reveal how Mr Watt attempted to throw cold water on later related reports in discussions with media advisers.

One concerned an internal record that raised concerns about an “underdeveloped” plan put forward by the HSE for the planning of health service delivery.

Mr Watt wrote: “This is a confidential document given to a newspaper. It is clear that the individual has documents and is giving them to [them]. There is nothing to this and no real story as set out below.”

The Department of Health had originally failed to release any of the records following a request under FoI legislation. They were only disclosed after an appeal was made to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

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