An Taoiseach presents Fellowships to HMI Members

An Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D. paid tribute to the work of the Health Management Institute when he presented HMI Fellowships to nine members in Tullamore last weekend, writes Maureen Browne.

For many years now the Health Management Institute of Ireland has been playing an important role in promoting and developing professional standards in the management of our health services, An Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D. said when he presented HMI Fellowships to nine HMI members in Tullamore last weekend.

He said it gave him great pleasure to present the Fellowships, which are the highest category of membership of the Institute, and a mark of honour for particularly distinguished contributions to the health services and the Institute itself.

An Taoiseach presents Fellowships to HMI Members
Front row (left to right) Seamus Gallagher; Ita Leahy; An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, T.D.; HMI President, Denis Doherty; and Kieran Hickey. Back row (left to right) Martin Cowley; Ned Byrne; HMI Vice-President, Richie Dooley; Pat Smyth; and Noel Nelson.

An Taoiseach presented the Fellowships in person to Ms. Ita Leahy, former CEO of Hume Street Hospital, Dublin and former HMI Council Member; Mr. Noel Nelson, former CEO of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin and former HMI President; Mr. Kieran Hickey, former CEO of the Eastern Health Board and former HMI President; Mr. Martin Cowley, former CEO of the Mater Hospital, Dublin and former HMI President; Mr. Ned Byrne, CEO of St. Vincent’s Hospital, Fairview, Dublin and Hon. Secretary of the HMI; Mr. Pat Smyth, CEO of Leopardstown Park Hospital, Dublin and former HMI Council Member; and Mr. Seamus Gallagher, Regional Directorate HSE West and former HMI Council Member. Fellowships in absentia were presented to Mr. Gerry O’Dwyer, former HMI President and current Director of Education with the HMI and HSE Regional Director of Operations, Dublin Mid Leinster and Mr. Willy Heuschen, General Secretary of the European Association of Health Management, who received his award in recognition for what HMI President Denis Doherty said was his great contribution to the health services in Ireland and Europe. Mr. Paul Castel President of the European Association of Health Managers presented the Fellowships to Mr. Heuschen and Mr O’Dwyer and Mr. Heuschen by telephone from Europe thanked An Taoiseach and the HMI for the honour.

Welcoming An Taoiseach, HMI President, Denis Doherty, said it was a great honour that Mr. Cowen had agreed to officiate at such an important event for the Institute.  He said health managers had little opportunity for recognition.   Each person being honoured at this conferring had made an important contribution to the health services and to the work of the Institute.

He said it was very important that we had a vibrant and lively Institute and An Taoiseach had, at every opportunity, recognised the work that so many talented people carried out across the health services.

The President said health service reform was high on the Taoiseach’s agenda. “We in the Institute are deeply committed to reform also and we believe that the health sector can contribute to the wider agenda of public service reform. We are taking every opportunity to participate in this. For example we made a lengthy submission to the Group which is looking after the allocation of resources.

Ned and Elizabeth Byrne
Ned and Elizabeth Byrne

“One of the approaches we might look at is how police services were re-organised in New York at a time when additional finances were not an option, strong vested interests were opposed to the initiatives that were taken and influential commentators predicted the initiatives would not succeed,” he said.

Making the presentations, Mr. Cowen said that a particular strength of the Institute was that it catered for managers across the full spectrum of the health sector – public, private and voluntary.

The HMI’s excellent website and journal testified to a high standard of excellence within the organisation and services provided, from education and training activities to opportunities for networking, were greatly valued by members. He would like to acknowledge the work of the Institute in the development of human capital in the health service which was a very critical part of ensuring we had a quality health service.

He believed management had a particularly important leadership role in this regard.

He said he would like to congratulate all those concerned, including the President, Denis Doherty, Council Members, Honorary Officers and all those who supported the HMI.

An Taoiseach said Ireland’s health service depended critically on the professionalism of management at all levels and managers must strive continuously to ensure the highest standards of service. People’s health, people’s lives depended on this and the public was entitled to the highest standards of health care.

It was also essential that we got the best possible value for money, given the huge share of our national wealth that went into the health service. Taxpayers were entitled to know that their money was being spent wisely and well.

“I would like to acknowledge that in my experience as a constituency T.D., Minister and Taoiseach I meet an increasing number of people who are reporting good experiences when they have used the health services. There is better equality of access.

“The health service currently employs over 100,000 people; this is a major national resource and first class management and leadership skills are needed to ensure that we got the best from it.

“I know I am preaching to the converted in saying that the right kind of leadership can influence all professions and all staff grades to make good performance great. The HSE fully recognises the importance of leadership and I’m told that plans for a Centre for Leadership, focussed on both clinical and non-clinical staff, are at an advanced stage. The Centre will be developed incrementally as resources permit and the HSE will no doubt be keen to draw on the expertise of Institute members in moving ahead with this project.

Denis Doherty, Pat Smyth and An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, TD
Denis Doherty; Pat Smyth; and An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, T.D.

Performance evaluation was, of course, a cornerstone of improved service development and a key development in recent years had been the improvements in the HSE’s National Service Plan, which set out the quantum of health and personal services to be delivered by the HSE for the money voted to it.

Improvements centred on incorporating more explicitly links between funding, staffing and services and the development of an improved set of activity measures, performance indicators and deliverables in key service areas, matched with timescales. Examples included Emergency Department turnaround times; performance indicators on day case procedures; waiting list indicators in demand led schemes and in mental health; and indicators for symptomatic breast cancer services. The Plan also committed to the development of additional measures demonstrating the responsiveness of our health system.

Ireland’s health service depend critically on the professionalism of management at all levels

Mr. Cowen said that overall, there had been great improvements in our health care system in recent years and further improvements were in hand. But unread X-rays and unopened letters at Tallaght Hospital were stark a reminder that there was absolutely no room for complacency.

“We cannot let up until the entire system, every aspect of it, every person in it, is 100 per cent focussed on the interests of the patient, 24 hours a day, every day, every month, every year. The wellbeing of our society and the strength of our economy depend on the general health of our population.

“I chair a Cabinet Committee on health and I get the impression that there is a far greater ability to inculcate best practice across the system because more information is now available in real time.

I meet an increasing number of people who are reporting good experiences when they have used the health services

“There is no doubt that, following a period of rapid increases in funding, the health services are now facing the challenge of managing within much tighter resource constraints. There is scope within our health system, by reforming the way services are delivered, to achieve more through greater efficiency and concentrating on services that  contributed  most to people’s health and well being. There is an onus on all concerned – government, management, trade unions and employees – to ensure that the reforms needed to deliver better services to patients are achieved.

“Earlier this week, I appointed Dara Calleary to be Minister for State at my own Department and at the Department of Finance, to strengthen the political leadership of the change process in the public service. In addition, the Government will appoint a Public Service Board to bring greater focus and energy to the task of public service transformation and to support such work on a public service-wide basis. The Board will include members from outside the public service with appropriate experience and skills.

“Ultimately, it is only through real and lasting change, based on constant renewal, re-designing how we do our business, fully applying the potential of new technology and challenging accepted ways of working and organisational structure, that we can deliver a health service of which we can be proud and, equally, which we can afford, both now and into the future.

“Putting the patient first is a pressing national priority.  I know it’s a priority for HMI and that you will be in the vanguard of our ongoing campaign to build a first class health service in this country.”