The case of Dr. Holohan shows major flaws in governance

The chaos surrounding Dr Tony HolohanThe now canceled move from . to Trinity College is a huge blow to all those who have campaigned for fundamental reforms in our ailing healthcare system. It also raises serious questions about the relationship between the “permanent government” of senior officials and those chosen by the people at the ballot box to run their affairs.

The withdrawal of Dr. Holohan from the proposed job change can’t end things here. Too many key questions remain unanswered, particularly on the role of the health minister Stephen Donnelly and the general secretary of his department, Robert Watt.

Efforts will continue to reduce this problem to a preoccupation of the chattering classes. Watch out for depressingly familiar screams about a media frenzy. But it’s just none of that.

This problem goes to the heart of government, democracy and the rights of citizens to expect effective and fair service delivery for the taxes they pay. The healthcare system provides good care to many thousands of people every day, but it also has major shortcomings, not the least of which is its two-tier nature, which often puts the ability to pay for health insurance ahead of the needs of patients.

This issue also addresses the need for clear and unambiguous communication within the public service and towards the general public. In modern democracy, clear communication is critical to gaining public approval and improving the quality of life.

The remaining issues are also central to an individual’s right in a modern republic to full disclosure and transparency regarding the appointment of key posts. These are all very big issues – they must never be trivialized.

dr Tony Holohan has done a very good job as the state’s Chief Medical Officer during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was reflected in Ireland’s relatively low virus fatality rate. He has also worked to improve the status of public health in our health services in general, where it has been a bad relative for too long.

These realities made the prospect of his moving to an academic position at Trinity College a fairly positive one. We already know that the pandemic has demonstrated the need for greater preparedness to face such future issues. It was reasonable to conclude that Dr. Holohan’s move would help advance this vital work.

But it’s now widely acknowledged that announcements related to Dr. Holohan’s job change – from which he belatedly retired – was badly handled by the Department of Health. It took days to confirm that Dr. Holohan would keep his annual salary of 187,000 euros, which would continue to be paid by the state treasury.

We are not sure who signed this agreement and how this decision was authorized. Everything indicated that the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Expenditure and even the Taoiseach were left in the dark about it. Does that mean our elected government has been sidelined?

The matter now falls to the Oireachtas Health Committee, whose members must quietly but thoroughly — without petty partisan points — get the straight truth out. The case of Dr. Holohan shows major flaws in governance

Fry Electronics Team

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