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Paul Reid to quit as HSE boss in December to spend more time with family

Reid said he believes the HSE is entering a new phase and that the appointment of a new leader is now timely.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 27th 2022, 2:39 PM

THE HSE HAS confirmed that CEO Paul Reid will step down from his position later this year.

In a statement, the health service said Reid had agreed with the chairman that he will step down in December 2022, facilitating a period to advance the process of selecting a successor. He said today that he has no immediate career plan.

Reid was appointed in 2019 by then Health Minister Simon Harris and was due to hold the position for five years. 

In a message to staff today Reid said that he was making the decision with a heavy heart, and that 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 his decision was influenced by two key factors: A desire to spend more time with his family who had made many sacrifices to support him, and a belief that the HSE was entering a new phase and that the appointment of a new leader was now timely.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly paid tribute to Reid following the announcement, stating that he had provided “exemplary leadership to the HSE”. 

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

“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.”

‘Wholeheartedly thank the CEO’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said in a statement that he would like to “wholeheartedly thank the CEO of the HSE Paul Reid for his work over the past numbers of years, in particular for his extraordinary leadership shown during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“The HSE, through Paul, and its employees, led from the front on behalf of the country during a once-in-a-century pandemic, and demonstrated the value and importance of a national delivery agency in public health.

“Through acute hospital services, community services, test and tracing, and a world-leading vaccination programme, the HSE played a crucial role in Ireland’s battle against Covid,” he said.

“I know from personal experience in my dealings with Paul throughout the pandemic, that he was available seven-days-a-week, almost 24/7.

“No call was too late at night or too early in the morning. He gave total commitment, along with his teams. I understand fully why Paul has decided to step down later this year to spend more time with his family after an extraordinary demanding period. I wish him all the very best in the future,” he added.

The Taoiseach said he had spoken to Reid this morning about his decision and the HSE boss also spoke to the health minister. Martin told reporters today that Reid was “very clear” that he had been reflecting on the pressures of the job. 

Martin said Reid is not taking up another job elsewhere and he “just wants to spend more time with his family. 

He said “people are entitled to make personal decisions” with respect to their lives and careers.

“I’ve had a very good relationship with Paul,” he added, stating that throughout the pandemic, Reid was available “almost 24/7″. 

He commended his leadership of the HSE “through an extraordinary number of years” such as the “unprecedented pandemic”.

“I think he led from the front with his team,” he said, adding that he “guided” the nation through in terms of the delivery of acute services as well as with the testing and tracing system and vaccination programme.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane has also wished Reid well for the future, stating that his is 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.

“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,” he said.

Those in Government circles have privately expressed shock at the announcement today, with some stating it is “strange”, but most said they understood the decision stating that Reid had worked 18 hour days over the last two years during the pandemic. 

Sources have said they don’t think the CEO stepping down has anything to do with internal tensions between the Department of Health and the HSE. 

However, there is an acknowledgement of the mass exodus from some of the top jobs in the health service, with Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and his deputy Dr Ronan Glynn both resigning, in addition to Anne O’Connor, the chief operating officer of the HSE, who has left for a job with the private health insurance company, VHI.

Navan Hospital row

Yesterday Reid defended plans by the HSE to downgrade the Emergency Department (ED) at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Co Meath.

Under the plan the ED at the hospital is to be converted to a 24-hour medical assessment unit. Patients attending this new unit would need a GP referral and critically ill patients would be diverted away from Navan to other hospitals such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda.

The move has been criticised by clinicians and several politicians, including the Minister for Health, who said he was not satisfied with the plan and had instructed the HSE not to proceed.

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week yesterday, Reid said the HSE was pressing ahead with the plan despite the minister’s instruction.

He acknowledged the minister’s concerns and said they will be addressed over the coming weeks, but “ultimately we have to do this” because of patient safety.

“People in the Navan and Meath area are really at risk of poorer health outcomes and indeed death if we don’t address these actions,” he said.

With additional reporting from Christina Finn

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