Five non-executive board members appointed to the new West/North West Hospital Group are not representative of the common people, the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum claimed this week.
Cllr Padraig Conneely said he was concerned that the five, whose appointments were approved by Minister for Health James Reilly, in January, were all professional people.
They comprise the president of NUI Galway Dr James Browne, Claregalway GP Dr Brendan Day, Zubair Javeed, the chief financial officer of Creganna-Tactx Medical in Parkmore, Dr John Killeen, a retired managing director of Cold Chon Galway and former president of the Volvo Ocean Race Finale last year, and Phyllis MacNamara, the owner of Cobwebs antique and jewellery shop and an ambassador for Console, the suicide prevention and bereavement service.
Cllr Conneely’s comments came during a discussion - at a meeting of the HSE West’s regional health forum in Merlin Park on Tuesday - on the reorganisation of public hospitals into hospital groups.
The new west/north west group will comprise University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park Hospital, Sligo Regional, Letterkenny General Mayo General, Portiuncula and Roscommon County Hospital.
He stressed that he had nothing against the individuals involved - he knew four of the five personally - but was concerned that the “common touch” may not be represented on the board.
He asked who had selected them and if they were chosen because they had high public profiles. He described them as “well heeled” and said he did not think any of them would ever have been in a public hospital because it was more likely they would have private health insurance.
“I’ve nothing personal against them,” insisted the Fine Gael councillor. “But where is the common touch? Where is the farmer, the unemployed, the ordinary person [represented among them]? These are all professional people, there is not a proper mix on the board. There could be a better spread re advocacy for the ordinary person. When I want to get information on the health system I go to Shantalla or Claddagh.”
He urged HSE authorities when they are choosing the additional three members to “have a look at the common woman or man”.
Bill Maher, the chief executive of the Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals Group, said a number of the non-executive board members had spent time in hospitals both working and as patients.
He was anxious to dispel any public doubts and stressed these were “ordinary people like ourselves” whose experience and backing would stand the hospital group in “excellent stead”. They were giving their time free of charge, he added.
They were approved by the Minister for Health and some had “commercial expertise” while others had “track records” in good governance. One was a GP, he said.
Mr Maher said the HSE would be looking for the same competencies in the additional members.
Clare councillor Brian Meaney said the Galway politician’s concerns should not be dismissed. He said Cllr Conneely was not undermining those appointed. Mr Maher went on to say he was not dismissing the forum chair’s remarks.
Letterkenny Fianna Fail councillor Ciaran Brogan stated it was important that all the forum members knew who was on the board of the new hospital group.
He said to be fair to those on the board some may have put themselves forward because they feel they have a contribution to make. Forum members should be given information on them, he believed. Cllr Conneely said members had received this.