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HSE's Reid admits 'tensions' with CMO over testing capacity but says 'we're on the same page now'

“There are tensions with many issues,” HSE CEO Paul Reid said this morning.

HSE CEO Paul Reid speaking this morning.
HSE CEO Paul Reid speaking this morning.
Image: Gareth Chaney/RollingNews.ie

HSE CEO PAUL Reid said today there was “tension” with the Department of Health and NPHET last month about how Ireland planned to ramp up its Covid-19 testing capacity. 

Letters published on Thursday show the HSE expressed concern over last month’s announcement by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) that testing for Covid-19 would be significantly expanded to cover 100,000 suspected cases a week.

A letter from the HSE chief executive Paul Reid to the Department of Health’s Secretary General, Jim Breslin, states “regrettably, I was taken very much by surprise by Dr [Tony] Holohan’s letter” on the expansion of Covid-19 testing.

In the correspondence to the secretary general, the HSE boss says “generally speaking, I have a good sense of the general direction of travel in advance of formally receiving the NPHET actions which are then progressed and monitored closely through the HSE’s National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) which I chair”.

He added that Dr Holohan’s announcement around testing was “at odds” with the process engaged with at Cabinet committee level and in meetings with the country’s top civil servant, Department of the Taoiseach Secretary General Martin Fraser.

“They are also at odds with the process in place with the HSE Board,” the HSE chief executive said. 

Addressing the correspondence today, Reid maintained that himself and Dr Holohan are “on the same page” and said tensions have arisen across a number of public health matters during Covid-19. 

“We’ve been on the same page throughout this and we’re on the same page now,” said Reid. 

Reid added that it was “obvious” there would be tensions as public health officials worked to increase testing capacity in Ireland. 

“There are tensions with many issues,” he added. 

Since the letter was written on 19 April, Reid said the HSE, Department of Health and NPHET had come to an arrangement by way of a “shared management plan” as testing capacity was increased. 

“But there was tension in terms of how we get there,” he said. 

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On Thursday, the HSE announced it aimed to have a 90% end-to-end turnaround time of three days on testing and contact tracing for Covid-19 positive cases by Monday.

Reid also confirmed that more than 270,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out across Ireland and that, by Monday, 15,000 tests per day would be carried out. 

At this morning’s HSE weekly briefing, Reid also addressed the reporting of Covid-19 cases from the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

It follows controversy surrounding the delay of the official publication of some 244 cases at the hospital dating back to mid-March until Thursday.

He said he is satisfied that the reporting of Covid-19 cases from the hospital complied with legal requirements, despite an anomaly which emerged earlier this week.

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