HSE chief to quit

HSE Chief Executive Cathal Magee is to step down as head of the organisation after less than two years in the post.

His departure is to be confirmed today as Health Minister James Reilly publishes legislation outlining a major restructuring of the HSE, which he plans to phase out as part of his reform agenda.

Under the changes, the HSE will initially be reorganised into seven new directorates to cover areas including for the first time, separate directorates for mental health and primary care. These will also be a new Director General post for the HSE.

Since the changes were mooted earlier this year, there had been some doubt as to how the current CEO would fit into the new structures.

Mr Magee, before succeeding Prof Brendan Drumm in 2010, had served as acting group CEO of and head of the retail arm of Eircom Ltd.

He has also previously worked for the National Australia Banking Group in the UK and Ireland. He has also worked in Bord na Mona and in the earlier part of his career he worked in the health service.

Regarded as a highly competent administrator and manager, Cathal Magee kept a considerably lower profile as HSE CEO than his predecessor Prof Drumm.

Mr Magee has presided over the HSE during an extremely difficult period for the organisation, when it has seen €2.5 billion cut from its budget and major cuts in staff numbers through voluntary redundancy and a recruitment embargo.

At the same time it has struggled to maintain services against a background of rising demands for care. Currently the HSE has a deficit of €280 million and could face a deficit of €500 million at the end of the year unless it implements a range of cutback measures.

Despite recent initiatives, in the hospital service, waiting list numbers and ED trolley waits remain high as hospitals struggle to cope with greater demands on shrinking budgets.

During his tenure at the HSE, Mr Magee has also seen an increase the Department of Health's role in the day-to-day running of the organisation, with the Department Secretary General Ambrose McLoughlin now chairing the HSE board.

There have been reported tensions between the Department and HSE over the running of the organisation and over where exactly cuts should be made to rein in the HSE's spiralling deficit, which has come to the attention of the 'Troika' in its assessment of the country's bail-out performance.

The Department has argued that cuts can be made through greater efficiencies in how the HSE runs its services, and has ruled out further bed reductions as a cutback measure.

The HSE, for its part, has argued that many of the required savings, for example in overtime, allowances, staff rostering, generic drug prescribing, overall drug costs and inreasing private patient income, require action at Government level.

The HSE is to be phased out under Minister Reilly's reform plans, which are set to lead to the introduction of a universal health insurance scheme around 2016. To date, however, it has been unclear as to what will replace the HSE under these plans.


[Posted: Wed 18/07/2012]


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