Calm before the storm?
Simon Harris has had a relatively calm start so far during his period in the health portfolio.
But at just over 100 days in the role, it’s still relatively early days and there has been no major crisis yet on his desk.
His main commitment has been to reinvest in health and his ability to secure an extra €500m to deal with the HSE projected overrun, as well as other developments, was welcomed.
But it remains unclear how much extra money will be available for 2017 and there are many demands and expectations.
An extra €50m each year from next year has been promised to cut waiting lists.
With 530,000 people now waiting to be treated or seen in hospital, getting that figure down will be a big ask.
Minister Harris has promised to cut by half the number of patients waiting for inpatient procedures by the end of December.
Setting targets has always been a bit dangerous in health.
He has also announced a ‘five point plan’ to reduce waiting lists.
These are new targets against which he will be judged.
He took over in May and usually emergency department overcrowding eases over the summer months.
However, INMO figures show that it has remained relatively high and emergency department consultants insist it is no longer a winter problem.
As we move towards the autumn and usually poorer weather, trolley figures normally increase.
Will this year be any different?
He has enjoyed some wins – notably the new €750m drug price savings deal which involves the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and others.
But we will only know in around four years what the net savings actually are, after new drugs are funded.
The other big initiative is the all-party committee to look at a ten year plan for health.
Ten years is a long time and we will only know the degree to which fresh thinking and broad agreement is possible when the hearings get underway.
Mr Harris told the McGill Summer School that we need to stop running the health service based on election cycles and individual ministerial ideology.
His aim is to put in place once and for all, a ten-year strategy with cross-party political and societal buy-in on future services.
For this to be successful, he will need doctors from all areas and nurses and other health professionals to agree on the key planks of any strategy.
In this regard, bringing bitter rivals, the Irish Medical Organisation and the National Association of GPs together at the same table for talks with the minister on a new GP contract will be challenging.
Medical turf wars and inter-union rivalry in health has the potential to delay, or halt change, so none of this will be easy.
But the indications are that Minister Harris is determined that people should not be excluded from contributing to the health map of the future.
If we look at the last commitments in the various General Election manifestos, most parties supported appointing extra frontline staff and at least the concept of universal healthcare.
The manifestos included more GPs, extra practice nurses and more management of chronic disease in the community, including more care at home.
Despite the fact that it is not a much-loved agency, the HSE looks likely to remain in place in some shape for some time.
Most commentators have observed that Mr Harris has been energetic, well-briefed and keen in his portfolio.
He seeks out the media spotlight much less than his predecessor but is surely ambitious.
The crown of being the youngest Minister for Health appears to sit easily enough on his 29-year-old shoulders.
Most of the health organisations that have met him have good things to report from their initial encounters.
Of course there is always a honeymoon period and that must be coming now to a close.
The 2017 Budget discussions will be tough and managing expectations will be a test.
What exactly is the ‘fiscal space’ now for the Government for that Budget, especially with uncertainty over Brexit?
In health, there are always demands that cannot be met due to limited funding.
If the history of health has taught us anything in recent years, it’s never quiet for very long.