Less than a year into his high-profile job, the HSE national director of acute hospital services has tendered his resignation.
Dr Tony O’Connell — who came to Ireland from Australia in 2014 armed with glowing references — is returning to Queensland to join his wife, who was recently offered an academic post in a university.
Dr O’Connell’s departure represents a setback for the Emergency Department Taskforce, established last month to find long-term solutions to overcrowding.
The taskforce, of which Dr O’Connell was chair, is due to meet regularly in 2015 and Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said he hopes it will be the ‘catalyst’ for solving the ED crisis.
News of Dr O’Connell’s departure emerged on the same day the highest ever number of patients — 563 — were seen on hospital trolleys throughout the country.
In a statement, the HSE confirmed Dr O’Connell will return to Australia shortly to join his wife, who was in Ireland up until recently. She is due to take up her post next Monday.
Dr O’Connell has been on leave from his position, in Dr Steevens’ Hospital for the past several weeks as he has been in Australia. He returned to his HSE post last week.
Predecessor Ian Carter was just a year in the job before taking up the post of HSE national director for strategic development.
Dr O’Connell was first appointed as the CEO to Dublin North East Hospitals in March 2014 before being made national director for acute hospitals three months later.
It remains unclear whether the deputy national director of acute hospitals, Angela Fitzgerald, will step into the brief until a new person is appointed.
While in Australia, Dr O’Connell was director- general of the Queensland public health system where he managed 182 hospitals, a budget of €8bn, and had more than 80,000 staff.
At the time of his appointment, the HSE said as director-general he had delivered the best-ever performance in finance, elective surgery, emergency departments, and quality and safety in Queensland.
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