Kean: I talk to very many people in hospitals

CELEBRITY lawyer Gerald Kean, invited by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to grill its top managers, believes he was approached because he is an outspoken critic of the health service — and not because he “likes a good party”.

“I think the fact they picked me is not a surprise. I am very outspoken and very critical of the HSE. And I don’t see how they can change my mind,” he said.

The Celebrity Bainisteoir runner-up was approached last week by HSE national director of communications, Paul Connors, and invited to meet with senior HSE management to quiz them about any concerns he has in relation to the health service. Mr Connors said Mr Kean had been approached because he is a regular contributor to chat shows and as such is an “opinion-former”.

Mr Connors said he intends to extend similar invitations to other “opinion formers” as part of a new HSE communications strategy designed to ensure chat show and newspaper contributors are “properly informed” about the HSE before commenting on it.

Speaking to Pat Kenny on his RTÉ radio show yesterday, Mr Connors said he would be inviting economist Jim Power; economist and newspaper contributor Moore McDowell; former president of the University of Limerick Dr Ed Walsh, and actor Brendan Gleeson, to attend forums with HSE directors where they could raise issues of concern.

Mr Kean said he intends to write first to the HSE asking for answers to his questions “including why there are 38 management grades in the organisation”.

“When I get those answers, then I will attend the forum, that way I will not be blinded by rubbish,” said Mr Kean. He said he was “not speaking from a castle in Killiney”, but as someone who has been at the coalface of problems witnessed first hand when visiting hospitals as part of SIN, the MRSA lobby group. “I am very, very much on the ground. I am not just smoking cigars and drinking wine. I talk to very many people in hospitals,” said Mr Kean.

Mr Connors was forced to defend his new communications strategy on radio yesterday amid much criticism from the public. He said he intended to press ahead with it, and that patient advocate groups and politicians, as well as the general public, would also benefit.

However the strategy was described as “bizarre” by Labour Party TD Sean Sherlock.

Mr Sherlock said he was frequently frustrated by the HSE when seeking information on behalf of himself and his constituents.

“Am I better off now to go to Gerald Kean after he has met the powers that be to find out what’s happening?” Mr Sherlock asked.

Fine Gael Cork South Central Senator, Jerry Buttimer, who raised the issue in the Seanad, said Mr Connors “should bring in the ordinary person who is suffering, the family of the late Susie Long and the families of people who have been on trolleys for days and let us have a real debate and real communication”.


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