Sunday 18 February 2018

Profile: Quiet outsider who could be mistaken for career civil servant

AMBROSE McLoughlin was the first outsider to become Secretary General of the Department of Health - but his aloof nature and reticent style gave more the impression of a career civil servant.

His appointment in early 2012 was hailed by former Health Minister James Reilly, who said he would "invigorate" the Department.

He was b y his side in drawing up ambitious plans for universal health insurance, the start of hospital groups and the planned abolition of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

He was seen as bringing a wider view to the health service, having started life as a dentist before going on to rise through the ranks in the former North Eastern Health board, where he was appointed chief executive.

He later went on to head the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, which regulates pharmacists, before applying for the Secretary General's post.

However, the last six months have signalled tensions behind the scenes and brought him reluctantly into the spotlight.

The most public display came at the Committee on Public Accounts when chairman John McGuinness called for his resignation along with HSE chief Tony O' Brien.

Both men struggled to explain why the HSE was facing a €500m shortfall this year.

It also emerged in a highly-charged exchange of correspondence between Dr McLoughlin and Mr O Brien on public pay policy. and consultants' salaries.

Mr O Brien wanted the entry-grade pay cut reversed. But Dr McLoughlin told him it was his department which decided on pay.

Dr McLoughlin, who has a strict personal diet and exercise regime, is well-suited to his new job of getting us more active before he retires in June.

Irish Independent

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