ICT boss at HSE in conflict of interest probe

THE HSE’s national ICT director, who oversees a €100 million annual information technology development budget, has been placed on administrative leave over claims of a conflict of interest involving private firms.

Gerard Hurl has been temporarily replaced in his €138,000-a-year post by Fran Thompson due to the former’s connection to the Healthcare Informatics Society of Ireland (HISI), which he has chaired since 2003.

The 700-member voluntary health informatics professionals umbrella group accepts sponsorship payments of up to €15,000 a year from IT firms, a number of which have been awarded HSE tenders in recent years.

While Mr Hurl has denied any wrongdoing, those behind an ongoing HSE internal review have decided to place the senior official on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“Mr Fran Thompson is currently acting national director of ICT, this is a temporary arrangement, as Mr Hurl is currently on leave,” a HSE spokesman confirmed.

The investigation into Mr Hurl, which has yet to conclude, was triggered by an anonymous complaint made to the HSE at the start of this year.

It has been alleged that before the inquiry began some companies believed if they didn’t accept invitations to sponsor and provide thousands of euro in payments to the HISI group, they may find it more difficult to win subsequent HSE tenders.

Among the HISI member companies awarded HSE contracts in the recent past are Hewlett Packard, iSoft and McKesson.

The latter firm was chosen as the HSE’s preferred supplier for a contract worth up to €50m within the past 12 months to implement a new national radiology picture-archiving and communication system.

Questions have also been asked over the HSE ICT section’s promotion of certificates offered by HISI and ProRec, a related company of which Mr Hurl is a director. HISI offers to certify health IT professionals and ProRec provides a quality assurance label, though neither has a statutory role.

Mr Hurl was appointed as the HSE’s national ICT director in March 2009 by then chief executive Prof Brendan Drumm in an attempt to drive forward IT development in the health service.

HISI were unable to contact their chairman Mr Hurl yesterday. He has previously rejected claims of any wrongdoing.


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