Brendan Drumm: due to retire from post in August

The successful applicant for the position of head of the HSE will be paid just over half the salary enjoyed by current CEO Brendan Drumm over the last five years, a cut of over €200,000.

While the departments of finance and health have yet to confirm the new reduced rate in the wake of the pay cuts introduced for top public servants, HSE sources said it was unlikely to exceed €250,000.

Drumm's salary is around €450,000 a year, made up of a basic €370,000 plus an annual performance bonus of around €80,000, which was paid regularly until 2008.

Last year, the HSE announced it was ending all performance bonus payments to its top staff and added they would not be re-introduced until 2012 at the earliest.

This is a personal rate awarded to Drumm when he finally agreed to take the top job in 2005 for five years.

In 2007, the body which reviews the salaries of the country's most senior public servants, including the Taoiseach, ministers and judges, was asked to set a rate for what was a new position in the public service.

The Review Body on Higher Remuneration recommended a salary of €303,000 for what it described as "one of the most demanding public service posts examined by us".

The body accepted that Drumm was on a higher "personal rate" but said €303,000 should be treated as the "definitive rate for the job". This is the exact same rate recommended for the Taoiseach.

But this rate was never implemented and has dropped since the introduction of the pension levy, as well as voluntary pay cuts of 10%.

Professor Tom Keane, current head of the HSE's cancer services, is the preferred choice of health minister Mary Harney, and of most doctors, to replace Drumm when he retires in August.

The HSE has employed executive head-hunters Amrop to help it to find a successor for Drumm.

The deadline for formal applications has now passed and it is understood around 10 people with the experience and qualifications have applied for the job.