Gerry O’Dwyer, Group Chief Executive of the South/SouthWest Hospital Group has announced his retirement after 50 years working in the health services. A native of Dublin and proud Blues fan, he has spent the last eight years working in Cork.
As Group Chief Executive of the South/South West Hospital Group, Gerry was responsible for setting up the Group and charting a strategy which would bring a unified approach to the delivery of services to a community ranging from Waterford to Tralee. He also strengthened relationships with the Academic Partners, primarily University College Cork (UCC).
Gerry’s career in the health services commenced as a Psychiatric Nurse in the 1970s. His experiences made an enduring impression on him and fostered the patient-centred nature of mental health services which characterised his approach to the management of services. It also nurtured his belief in an integrated approach to the delivery of services, with acute and community services working seamlessly on behalf of the service user.
His career path wove its way through the public hospital system and also the voluntary sector, with senior roles in Cork University Hospital Group and CEO, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children. He also held senior positions in the HSE as Network Manager South and Regional Director of Operations in Dublin Mid-Leinster.
A multi-tasker, Gerry’s boundless energy and willingness to lend a hand meant that he always had a couple of jobs on the go at any time. He was a frequent participant behind the scenes in national negotiations with health service unions with whom he developed very effective working relations.
From an early date, Gerry became actively involved in the work of the Health Management Institute (HMI). As Director of Education with the Institute, he fostered the development of a wide range of training courses for managers in the health services and oversaw the introduction of development programmes offering nationally recognised qualifications for front-line managers. He served a term as President of the Health Management Institute, before taking on the role of President of the European Association of Hospital Managers (EAHM), where he was the first Irish person to do so.
Bringing people together is one of his talents and nowhere is this ability better exemplified than in the establishment of strong links which he established with all the emergency services and the relationships he built with senior leaders in An Garda Siochana, the Defence Forces, Local Authorities, the Fire and Ambulance Service, the Coastguard and the Voluntary Services.
An event was held for Gerry last December and the then Taoiseach, Micheál Martin paid tribute to him. Wishing Gerry a very happy and healthy retirement from the health services, he said, “I also want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to you for the extraordinary work and commitment over so many years to the Irish health system and to looking after people”.
For his part, Gerry thanked all of the staff that he worked with over the years in his career. He expressed his thanks in a letter to all the staff in the 10 hospitals in the SSWHG Group for their commitment and support during his eight years as CEO, and he also thanked staff he worked with in previous roles.
“Leading our hospital group has been the greatest privilege of my 50 years working in the health services, “ he said.
“I am immensely proud of the work we do every day for the people of Munster and beyond who rely on our services for their healthcare needs.”
He paid particular tribute to the hard work, dedication and professionalism of the management and staff at each of the hospitals, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic and the cyberattack on the HSE when, he said, staff at all levels across the group worked long hours in extremely challenging circumstances.
“The group simply would not exist without the hard work and dedication of the management and staff at each of our 10 hospitals.
“I am constantly impressed and inspired by the dedication and professionalism of our clinical staff across all grades, whose work is consistently underpinned by all our invaluable administrative and support staff.
“The goal, as always, is to ensure enhanced continuity of care for all our patients. I am confident that our current and future patients are in the best of hands.”
He thanked the local community services and voluntary agencies that support the group. “They have been our greatest champions and have helped us overcome significant challenges,” he said.
He also thanked the wider HSE and the Hospital Group’s Academic Partner, University College Cork.
Gerry paid tribute to the ongoing work carried out by the Interagency Groups involving the Local Authorities, An Garda Síochana, Defence Forces, Coastguard. Gerry praised the cohesive manner in which they all worked together in challenging environments, in particular during the Covid 19 pandemic. He acknowledged the long history of the interactive way these agencies worked together for the good of our communities and he expressed his hope that they continue to go from strength to strength.
He also thanked the HMI for its ongoing work and dedication in supporting and educating hospital managers and leadership staff.