The existence of the group, chaired by property developer Michael O’Flynn, was confirmed yesterday on foot of an Irish Examiner query to the HSE South.
Among the members of the high-profile non-executive advisory board, set up last year, are racehorse trainer Aidan O’Brien and president of University College Cork Dr Michael Murphy. Leading business figures on the board include Padraig O’Riordan, managing partner of law firm Arthur Cox Solicitors; Paul Breen, former executive vice president of Elan Corporation; Sean O’Driscoll, chief executive of Glen Dimplex; and Kevin Kenny, tax partner Ernst & Young.
Prof John Higgins, the HSE’s director of reconfiguration in the South, said the existence of the group had not been widely publicised because members’ time and advice was free of charge.
He said the genesis of the group had already existed when he took up his reconfiguration post and that he had broadened it to include academia and clinicians.
“This particular group has expertise in all sorts of areas that I simply would not get through the healthcare system: in change management, in leading change in very large organisations, in the pursuit of excellence.
“The common theme in the group is that they know how to get the best from people across a whole range of disciplines and they excel in what they do,” he said.
However, Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen said it was “crazy stuff” that the existence of the group had been kept under wraps.
“The future of health services in this region is being discussed behind closed doors by a secret group and it is typical of how the HSE operates. I found out about this accidentally, and I was gobsmacked,” the Cork North Central TD said.
Labour TD Sean Sherlock criticised a “lack of transparency” in the reconfiguration process. “Furthermore, it’s an insult to existing frontline staff, who are very experienced and who would easily facilitate change management if it weren’t for the fact that the HSE is run by technocrats,” Mr Sherlock said.
Its members also include Des Murphy, chairman of Mercy University Hospital Board and managing partner of Carroll Murphy Quantity surveyors; Pat Lyons, chief executive of Bon Secours health system; Pat Healy, regional director of operations, HSE South; Dr Cillian Twomey, retired consultant physician in geriatric medicine at Cork University Hospital; Michael Hall, chair of South Infirmary Victoria Hospital Board; GP Dr Paddy Crowley; Donal Horgan, MD, Musgrave Retail Partners Ireland; Prof Gerry O’Sullivan, professor of surgery and director of Cork Cancer centre; and Prof Geraldine McCarthy, Professor and Dean of the Catherine McAuley School of Nursing and Midwifery at the National University of Ireland, Cork.