Chair of hospital boards must be removed for good governance and public confidence

May 7, 2018

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD today called on the Minister for Health to relieve Mr Thomas Lynch of his chairmanship of Irish hospital boards, saying his public-sector positions are incompatible with his extensive involvement in big pharma and medical supplies companies and his private fundraising efforts for the Taoiseach.

Deputy Shortall said:

“Mr Lynch is at the centre of a web of personal, political and professional connections that appear all too cosy and smack of a golden circle in our health system.

“His multiple private sector roles are entirely incompatible in governance terms with his role as the chairman of the country’s largest hospital group, Ireland East.  The eleven hospitals in that group include St Vincent’s and the National Maternity Hospital. Separately, Mr Lynch is also chair of the board of the largest hospital within that group, the Mater. In his role as chair of the hospital boards, Mr Lynch is accountable to the HSE and to Tony O’Brien as its director general.

“Mr Lynch is a major player in big pharma, having served in a variety of roles with prominent drug manufacturers Amarin, Elan and Warner Chilcott, some of which have had dealings with our hospitals and the HSE.

“He also currently serves on the board of a number of other privately held biotechnology companies, including the US contraceptive manufacturer, Evofem Biosiences. Only in the past week did we learn that Tony O’Brien was given clearance by the Minister for Health to join Mr Lynch by taking up a lucrative position on the board of Evofem, whilst continuing to serve as HSE director general.

“The Social Democrats strongly believe that Minister Simon Harris showed extremely poor judgment in allowing Mr O’Brien to take up the remunerated post, which he subsequently stood down from on a temporary basis.”

Deputy Shortall added:

“Mr Lynch was appointed chair of the Ireland East Hospital Group board by the former Minister for Health James Reilly in 2013 and reappointed to this role by current Minister for Health Simon Harris last December. Mr Lynch has been involved directly in fundraising for the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, hosting an invitation only dinner event for business people last May.

“Mr Lynch’s positions and connections raise major concerns over governance including the threat of conflicts of interest or the appearance of such conflicts on multiple fronts.

“It is simply incompatible for someone holding these positions to also have such extensive personal, corporate and political connections with key players in our health system. I am calling on Minister Harris to relieve Mr Lynch of his chairperson roles in an effort to build public confidence in the independent oversight and governance of our health system.”

ENDS

7 May 2018