Kean gets to quiz HSE on A&E in celebrity Q&A

WHY patients spend hours on trolleys and whether the Pope is a Catholic are rhetorical questions to which few expect answers.

But while no one disputes the papal religion, many would like to know what causes the logjams in A&E.

The answer may well be at hand — under a new communications strategy adopted by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Extending the hand of friendship in exchange for an ear, celebrity pundits, politicians and patient advocates will be offered the opportunity to grill senior HSE management about what it is that makes the health service sick.

Celebrity lawyer Gerald Kean was the first person approached by national director of communications, Paul Connors, under the HSE’s new “open mind policy”.

As Mr Kean is a regular contributor to chat shows, the HSE is anxious he be well informed.

“Mr Kean is what I would call an ‘opinion former’,” Mr Connors said. “I am meeting ‘opinion formers’, that’s how I would describe it, but with a view to contextualising issues in the HSE.”

In order to prepare for the airwaves, “opinion formers” will be offered an audience with national HSE directors — an achievement seen by some as no less significant than an audience with the Pope.

When asked by the Irish Examiner why they were targeting celebrities, Mr Connors said “celebrities might be stretching it”, although to be fair to Mr Kean, 51, he was runner-up in the successful RTÉ Celebrity Banisteoir.

When asked why he had chosen Mr Kean to kick-start the new era of transparency, Mr Connors said the society lawyer was “an eminent source” — as well as an advocate for MRSA lobby group Stop Infections Now.

“If there are issues he is unclear on, I’ll provide people to answer his questions, whether it be the national director of human resources or the head of the National Hospitals Office. If they are not available, then I’ll have members of the management team as required,” Mr Connors said.

“We want to break down barriers and give an honest assessment. It’s good communications. If you can’t get an answer to your questions, I’ll get someone to answer them for you,” Mr Connors said.

These face-to-face forums will last for anything up to an hour-and-a-half and questions asked will be at the discretion of the “opinion former”. Answers are likely to be at the discretion of the HSE.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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