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‘No connection’ between Paul Reid’s controversial comments about Navan hospital and his resignation, insists Taoiseach

Micheál Martin denied Mr Reid’s departure was down to differences with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly

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Paul Reid

Paul Reid

Paul Reid

The Taoiseach has dismissed suggestions that HSE boss Paul Reid is leaving his post because of differences with Government or difficulties with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

He said there was “no connection” between Mr Reid’s comments on radio yesterday about Our Lady's Hospital Navan and his resignation today.

Mr Reid announced this morning he will step down from his position at the end of the year “to spend time with his family”.

In a statement, Mr Reid said it was with a “heavy heart” that he had made the decision, which he said was influenced by a desire to spend more time with his family, and a “belief that the HSE was entering a new phase and that the appointment of a new leader was now timely”.

It comes after the departing HSE boss told RTÉ’s This Week yesterday that plans to reconfigure the Emergency Department at Our Lady’s Hospital Navan will proceed, despite a request from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to put them on hold.

Mr Reid said “it would be a mistake” for the minister to use his powers under Section 10 of the Health Act to direct the HSE to call a halt to its plans.

The reconfiguration of the Emergency Department at Navan was due to happen by the end of this month, but Mr Donnelly asked the HSE to pause its plans to allow for further consultation with public representatives.

Mr Reid said yesterday that the HSE was pressing on with its plans despite the minister’s request.

However, Micheál Martin this afternoon laughed off and dismissed suggestions that Mr Reid’s departure was down to differences with Government or difficulties with Stephen Donnelly.

He said he spoke to Mr Reid this morning and learned he wanted to spend more time with his family.

“He was very clear to me that essentially he’s been reflecting lately, given all the pressures, in terms of giving more time to his family,” Mr Martin said.

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“He’s not moving on anywhere. He really just wants to spend more time with his family. He’s reflected on this. And I understand that.”

“People are entitled to make personal decisions with respect to their lives and careers.”

Speaking at Dublin Castle, Mr Martin said he wanted to pay a very warm tribute to Mr Reid for his leadership, particularly during Covid-19, which was an unprecedented pandemic.

“I think he led from the front with his team and all of the employees of the HSE and guided the nation through in terms of the delivery of acute services in the midst of a pandemic,” Mr Martin said.

This extended to the development of testing and tracing and getting that up to speed so quickly, followed by a world class vaccination programme.

“It demonstrated the value of a national health delivery office,” added Mr Martin, who established the HSE by merging regional health boards while he was minister for health.

The leadership Mr Reid had given to the organisation had been instrumental, he said.

“He has been at the helm of a number of public service organisations for quite some time. I've had a very good relationship with Paul,” the Taoiseach said.

“He was available right throughout the pandemic and has been almost working 24/7 – from early in the morning to taking calls late at night.

“I just have to say that I understand fully the reasons he has given, which are personal – and again, he’s not moving anywhere fast. He’s here for the rest of the year, and will be working on a range of issues.”

Announcing his resignation this morning, Mr Reid said he had no immediate career plans.

He is stepping down more than two years before his €411,777-a-year contract ends.

He said he had advised the chairman, the board of the HSE and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly of his decision and agreed that he will step down in December of this year, facilitating a period to advance the process of selecting a successor.

In a message to staff, Mr Reid said it was the hardest decision he had ever made in relation to his own career.

“Having previously worked in the private, not for profit, central and local government sectors, working in the HSE has been by far the greatest period in my career,” he said.

“It has been truly rewarding leading an organisation whose staff come to work every day to make people’s lives better.

“No organisation will ever match the commitment, dedication and relentless willingness to go beyond the call of duty that I have witnessed as we battled multiple waves of Covid, a criminal cyber attack while driving a significant reform agenda.

“This has been truly inspirational for me to experience,” he said.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly thanked Reid for his hard work.

“Since his appointment as chief executive in June 2019, Paul Reid has provided exemplary leadership to the HSE,” Mr Donelly said.

“He has led Ireland’s health service through some of its most difficult days and has done so with dedication and professionalism.

“Throughout the pandemic, Paul played a critical role in leading Ireland’s response to the greatest health emergency of our times.

“He leaves behind him an organisation much enhanced for his time as chief executive and one that is already making real progress in implementing reform and improvement across many aspects of healthcare provision.

“I want to wish Paul all the best for the time ahead and to thank him and his family for the many sacrifices they have made over the last three years to allow him to dedicate himself to the role of CEO.”

Chairman of the HSE Mr Ciarán Devane also paid tribute, saying: “It is with very great regret that I and the board have heard of Paul’s decision.

“He has led the health service through what has been the greatest challenge it has ever faced, and done so with relentless dedication and professionalism. We are very grateful that he will stay in his role for a further period to allow us progress the extremely difficult task of replacing him.”

Sinn Féin Health spokesman David Cullinane said he wished Mr Reid well for the future and understood it was a “big decision for him personally”.

“As we look forward, our health services need strong, decisive leadership primarily from the Minister for Health supported by the Department of Health and the HSE,” Mr Cullinane said.

“Our health service needs to be transformed in the next decade to deliver better healthcare for patients.

“We need to create an Irish National Health Service that provides care on the basis of need, with tackling high waiting lists and recruitment and retention of staff the major priorities.”


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