A surprise press release was issued last month stating that Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan had decided to become a professor at Trinity College and left the pressures of the pandemic behind to move to the quiet, cherry blossom and cobblestone streets of old Dublin University.
It prompted a surge of goodwill for the man whose advice got the country through the worst of Covid-19.
From July he will leave the limelight of the lecture halls as Professor of Public Health Strategy and Leadership. However, the press release failed to mention some key details – that he would remain employed by the Ministry of Health, which would pay his €187,000 salary.
The decision behind this agreement – raised many important questions, some of which were answered yesterday but others remain open.
Neither Taoiseach Micheál Martin nor Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly signed the Trinity job, where he retains the terms and pay of the Department of Health role. Mr Donnelly was only contacted two weeks ago via Dr. Holohan’s appointment to the Trinity post, and he only learned on Tuesday that he will continue to be employed and paid by the Department of Health.
Department Secretary-General Robert Watt — himself at the center of the controversy over a €81,000 increase that took his salary to around €300,000 — did not respond when asked who Dr.
dr Holohan told the Oireachtas Health Committee privately today after questioning that it had been sanctioned by Mr Watt and was only confirmed this evening by the department after days of no response.
As a man at the head of the department, the goat must certainly stop with Mr. Watt. That’s €187,000 from his Department of Health’s budget for the remainder of Dr. Holohan if he will work for Trinity College which is publicly funded and generates enormous private income. Trinity College will benefit from its teaching and research, not to mention its prestige.
Mr. Watt must have considered why Dr. Holohan should come from his department’s assignments. This comes at a time when Sláintecare reforms are expected to gain momentum, bringing with it the complexities of setting up six regional health areas where information is vital to ensure a more equitable sharing of HSE funding guarantee.
Could that €187,000 be spent hiring some experts who would provide the kind of data essential to properly setting up these regional health areas?
Where did the idea come from?
When was it decided to create this role in Trinity? Did Trinity College or the Department of Health come up with the idea?
dr Holohan said in a private meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee today that he was very supportive of the role’s creation. “The department intends for me to lead the development and activities of inter-agency collaboration between universities and the health sector and to build strong links with the World Health Organization and the European Union.”
He said the Ministry of Health is committed to developing public health capacity in the future.
We still don’t know if any statements about this development have been made to Trinity College by a health official or anyone else in a senior capacity.
Has Trinity contacted the department or has it been sounded out that Dr. Holohan wants an academic position along those lines? has dr Holohan probes done?
The Ministry of Health has not yet answered these questions. Neither does Trinity College.
It said the position was “in view of Dr. Holohan” was created and the professorship was established by the college board in light of global events such as the pandemic. But we don’t know what the prelude to that decision was. dr Holohan was the only one interviewed – why weren’t other candidates invited to apply?
Consider the controversy created for Katherine Zappone’s proposed post as United Nations Special Envoy on Freedom of Expression. The dispute that broke out centered on the lack of procedures involved in the appointment and led to her deciding not to take the job.
Why weren’t other candidates considered?
dr Holohan is unique and clearly highly qualified in its role as the public health overseer in this country, but not worldwide.
Coveted professorships will always attract high caliber specialists and academics who would relish the opportunity to teach and research at a fine university like Trinity College. Has an effort been made to attract others who have the qualifications and would be interested?
How much will dr. Holohan’s successor as chief medical officer paid?
Is it fair that two civil servants get the same pay for one job, even though one is no longer in office? dr Holohan said today he will not be stepping down as chief medical officer, but will be stepping down from the post. But he will not return as chief medical officer.
The post will be advertised upon approval by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the appointment of a new CMO will be made under the auspices of the Public Appointments Service and the High Level Appointments Committee.
However, Public Expenditure Secretary Michael McGrath said on Wednesday that it “would normally be the case that the receiving body receiving the services” would pay the MP’s salary.
So will he approve the hiring of a new chief physician if the department continues to pay the salaries of its predecessor?
What does “indefinite” mean in connection with a posting?
According to the policy document on postings in the public sector, which was drawn up last year, the transfer should be temporary and “usually” take place for a period of six months to five years.
The delegation of Dr. Holohan is perpetual. And he said he will not return as chief medical officer. So when he returns to the department, what role will he have? Is he still entitled to his old salary? dr Holohan is in his mid-fifties and still has a significant chunk of his working life ahead of him.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/five-major-questions-about-tony-holohans-trinity-transfer-and-why-they-matter-41531448.html Five key questions about Tony Holohan’s Trinity transfer and why they matter