HSE CEO, Mr. Paul Reid is immensely impressed by how the people living in this country worked with the public health system in handling the pandemic, and particularly proud of the responsiveness of the health service to the challenges of the pandemic.
“There has never been change implemented so quickly by so many with such great impact. This is a reflection of the commitment, hard work and perseverance of our staff,” he said, writing in the HSE Annual Report for 2020, published in July.
“There are also many learnings that we must take from this pandemic, and it is important to consider in retrospect what worked well and what we could have done better as an organisation. This is something we have prioritised throughout the year and which has informed our planning for 2021 and beyond.
“With the support of Government and all of our health stakeholders, we implemented new pathways of care for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 services, built hospital capacity, resourced community services to treat people closer to home, and developed and adopted eHealth technology at an unprecedented rate. While brought about through difficult circumstances, these changes are aligned with our long-term Sláintecare direction and I am committed to ensuring that many of these new ways of working will be here to stay.
“It is clear that we need to maintain our COVID-19 response well into 2021 and also future proof our health service for unforeseen occurrences such as future pandemics. We will need to ensure that we grow both capacity and expertise within our infrastructure so that we can scale up when needed, and in the meantime maintain versatility, partnership and innovation within our system.
“On a personal level, I have been deeply saddened by the loss of life due to this devastating pandemic. In particular, we remember our healthcare workers whom we have lost to COVID-19. While every loss of life is a terrible tragedy, it has been particularly difficult to lose cherished colleagues who came to work to protect us and to protect the public. They will forever be in our thoughts.
While every loss of life is a terrible tragedy, it has been particularly difficult to lose cherished colleagues who came to work to protect us and to protect the public.
“I am also very mindful of the huge sacrifice made by so many people. I recognise the distress that this pandemic has caused to so many and I am very grateful for the level of co-operation and understanding shown by so many patients, services users and families when normal health and social care services were interrupted.
“I am very optimistic about the kind of society we will get back, while acknowledging that things will look different. The entire nation is indebted to your service. One of my proudest moments last year was in April when I received a call from An tUachtarán Michael D. Higgins, to express his deep gratitude on behalf of the people of Ireland to all of the staff working in the HSE. Just like our President, I also share this deep pride in our workforce.
“Due to the novel nature of the virus and the scale of the pandemic, the HSE, like many other public health systems, has been on a steep learning curve. However, we have some of the best-trained staff in the world and this, together with high levels of motivation right across the organisation, has helped us, particularly during the more acute phases of this pandemic.
“Due to the constantly evolving situation we have not always had the information or the time to work through solutions to traditional comfortable levels. We have been forced to make decisions and operate at pace, and while this certainly has its drawbacks, it gave staff significantly more autonomy by affording them more localised decision-making opportunities.
“2020 has been a year like no other. As a population and as a health service we have faced significant challenges but have demonstrated how we can pull together, innovating and adapting our practices. Our challenge now is to learn from this collective experience and to build the positive elements into our way of working, confident that we will emerge from the pandemic with a stronger, more united and more integrated health system.