Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson has described the resignation of HSE chief executive Paul Reid as “a bolt from the blue” which had taken him completely by surprise.
“I wish him [Mr Reid] well and I wish his family well,” David Cullinane told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “I commend his work over the past 3½ years”, he said.
Mr Reid led the HSE during the Covid crisis – he had set up the test and trace system, the vaccination programme, all of which had been big challenges, Mr Cullinane said. “Now we have to look forward,” he added.
Mr Cullinane said he hoped the next HSE chief executive would have the ambition to do away with the two-tier health system, would introduce free GP services and stop private consultants operating in public hospitals. He also wanted waiting lists tackled.
“The health service is in perpetual crisis,” he said.
When asked about his position on the reconfiguration of the emergency department at Navan hospital, Mr Cullinane said he had listened to the concerns of patients in the area at a public meeting.
He said there needed to be joined up thinking – additional bed capacity, coordination with GPs and community care. There was a real crisis in emergency departments in other hospitals too, some of which were not fit for purpose, he said.
On the same programme, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said he understood the scepticism of people in the northeast about the reconfiguration plans for Navan hospital. He pointed out that people in the midwest who were promised improvements to their health services felt that they had been let down.
When emergency departments were closed in Nenagh and Ennis hospitals with a view to sending patients to University Hospital Limerick, the public expected to see a better service, but that had not materialised, he said.
Mr Harris urged everyone involved in Navan to “take a step back” and wait to see “all the pieces of the jigsaw”.
The former minister for health said the HSE had agreed to address the concerns expressed.
Earlier on Newstalk radio, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the challenge for politicians was to follow the advice of experts while “bringing the people with us.”
He said in the case of Navan hospital it was important to listen to people like consultant surgeon Gerry McEntee. Mr Coveney pointed out that there had been great public opposition to the reconfiguration of Roscommon hospital, but now it was “stronger than ever” and the decision had been the right one.
It was important to listen to the voices of the people and the experts and to get the two “in line with each other,” he said.
This was also an issue of better communication – if there was going to be a reconfiguration, this was about improving services, not downgrading, he said.
People needed to be encouraged to embrace changes that would improve services, he said, with politicians taking time to listen to the experts and not “just lecture from the national airwaves”.