Tony Canavan was elected as vice president of the HMI at the AGM on 2 October 2019.
A Galway City native, he has worked in the Health Services in the West for over 20 years. His most recent assignment, which commenced on September 1 this year, is as CEO of the Saolta University Health Care Group. This is not his first term with the Saolta Group and certainly not his first time working in the hospital environment.
“When I started with the Western Health Board in 1993, it was as a Horticultural Instructor in a Training Centre for people with disabilities and for people with enduring mental health issues.It was a great introduction to the health service and left me with a clear sense of what is really important.
I was supported by the Western Health Board to pursue a BA in Economic Social Studies from 1993 -1997 and an MA in Health Economics immediately following this. Studying on a part time basis and working on a full time basis was demanding but opened up many opportunities for me.” Over the coming years, Tony held a number of appointments with the Western Health Board in the Mental Health Services, the Department of Public Health, Primary Care Services and Acute Hospitals Services.
In 2002, Tony was appointed General Manager of Mayo University Hospital and remained there until the end of 2009. “Mayo was a great place to work and it was impossible not to get swept along by the pride and sense of ownership that the staff, patients and the community at large had in their own hospital. Of course there were problems, but my abiding memory of Mayo is of a hospital that everyone wanted to be as good as it could be.”
Tony moved back to Galway in late 2009 to work as General Manager for Galway PCCC, as it was called then. He acknowledges that it was a role that would have a very steep learning curve for him, as most of the previous ten years had been spent in the hospital setting. In January 2012, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the first Hospital Group in the country known then as the Galway Roscommon University Hospitals Group, which subsequently became the Saolta Group and was extended to include Letterkenny and Sligo. In November 2015, he left that role to become Chief Officer of Community Healthcare West and returned to the Saolta Group four years later.
In between changing roles, he has continued with his studies, completing an MSc in Clinical Research in 2016.
“I have been involved in the HMI in various ways over the years, first attending seminars and occasionally the annual conference. In more recent years, I have become involved on the Editorial Board of Health Manager. This new role of Vice President gives me an opportunity to work with the President, Mr Lorcan Birthistle to continue to develop and promote the work of the HMI.
“I am particularly interested in developing participation in HMI events in the west of the country. I believe that the HMI can be a real support to managers, providing them with information and networking opportunities and even just collegial support. I believe that the view of managers on issues such as the way services are delivered and structured can be channelled effectively through the HMI and it is my hope that I will be able to support this work through my appointment as Vice President.
“I have found the HMI to be a very welcoming organisation and I want to help to extend that welcome to as broad a range of managers and as many managers as possible during the period of my tenure.”