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Health service staff have made me a better person

Paul Reid
Paul Reid

It has been without doubt one of the greatest honours of my life to lead the HSE, through what has been a most turbulent and challenging three years. Throughout this time, I have been overwhelmed and grateful for the efforts of all our staff and colleagues in the continuous and ongoing challenges they have faced day in and day out, in the provision of health and social care for all citizens.

My tenure has been marked by several highs and lows and for those lows, I would like to acknowledge that losing staff through COVID-19, people getting sick and dying through giving their service to the Health Service Executive, was a very tough time.  Talking to many of the families that lost loved ones will always stay with me. Their loved ones wanted to relate to me how much they loved the health service, how much they wanted to go to work during COVID-19. That was the ultimate sacrifice that they made.

After a really tough year with COVID-19, we were finally seeing glimmers of hope… May 13, a Thursday – I got a call at 2 o’clock in the morning to say we had a cyber-attack. I come from a technology background so I knew how bad it was, I knew what we had to do and I knew the impacts that we were facing. It was a body blow. These events stand out for very different reasons and for not so positive reasons.

As an organisation, the HSE has built the trust and confidence of the public and became a trusted source; how we won the support of the key stakeholders, the government and all the other government agencies; how we responded by any benchmark to any country of mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 through mortality, illness, ICU numbers, and our vaccination programme too. There’s so much that the health service can and should be proud of.

As I leave this role, there are words of advice I have often given myself and I pass them on to my successor – to stay grounded, don’t get lost in what you’re doing, just keep focused on who this is about, this is about the public, the patients, the people who use the services. Keep yourself grounded about why you’re here and what you have to do.

Finally, I want to thank all 155,000 direct and indirect employees. I actually think they have made me a better person which is no mean feat in itself. It is the best compliment I can give them. As I look back, I think differently now, your value system is recalibrated based on what you’ve seen in the health service. I feel better for it and I hope they do too.