Belfast Telegraph

HSE chief exec 'not forced out'

Health Minister James Reilly has denied he forced the head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) out of his job.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also defended his right-hand man, who was branded "a volatile minister" by the opposition.

Dr Reilly insisted HSE chief executive Cathal Magee made the decision to step down, handing in a letter to officials last Friday. Mr Magee has waived his right to compensation for leaving the post early.

"Mr Magee is a man I respect and I respect his decision. This is his decision and his decision alone," Dr Reilly insisted.

"I want to thank him for offering his assistance and help in relation to the transition phase to ensure there is a very smooth transition," he said. "He still has three years to remain on his contact and I want to acknowledge his civic spiritness by waving any right to compensation."

Mr Magee took the decision to resign after less than two years in the job, and will go at a time to be agreed. Following his appointment, Dr Reilly abolished the HSE board and promised to propose legislation to reform the executive. It will now be headed by the minister and be made up of a secretary general, director general, and six new directorates for different divisions.

In an apparent political rift in the department over the resignation, Roisin Shortall, junior health minister, said Mr Magee's departure is a significant blow to the service and he will be "badly missed".

Earlier, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said it appeared Mr Magee had been "shoved out" of the top post after knocking heads with Dr Reilly during recent tense meetings. When he asked the Taoiseach to confirm this, Mr Kenny said the answer to his question was "negative".

Mr Martin said Dr Reilly had been a "volatile minister" and was responsible for pedalling a dishonest estimate for the health budget last year, which has led to spending overruns likely to reach 500 million euro by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Minister Reilly vowed the sweeping reforms would save lives and money within the health sector. He said: "For too long the treatment of patients in our health services has had to conform to the needs of the system. This new directorate structure in the HSE will allow us to redesign the system to put the needs of the patient front and centre."

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