Health bosses ordered to compile lists of PR events for Harris

HSE director says the Minister complained about not being notified of launches

Minister for Health Simon Harris complained to HSE director Tony O’Brien about health events and launches  taking place ‘without his office being informed in advance’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Health Simon Harris complained to HSE director Tony O’Brien about health events and launches taking place ‘without his office being informed in advance’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The head of the HSE has ordered senior health executives to compile weekly lists of public relations events for Minister for Health Simon Harris to attend.

Tony O’Brien, the director general of the HSE, said Mr Harris had contacted him directly to “express his displeasure that some events and launches take place without his office being informed in advance”.

“This is preventing a Minister or a representative of the Minister from attending and/or partaking,” he added.

A memorandum on the issue was sent this week by Mr O’Brien to the chief executive of every hospital group and the heads of community healthcare organisations.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher claimed it showed “the obsession of this Taoiseach and this Government with their personal image and PR is now becoming a problem”.

Mr O’Brien said the lists should be “sent directly” to Mr Harris’s office, as well as to the HSE press office.

“Can you please arrange that a weekly list of all PR events or launches is compiled within your respective hospital group or community health organisation in order to allow the Minister or his representative to partake.

“All arrangements for the PR events and launches, in which the Minister has indicated an intention to be involved, should be made directly with the Minister’s office.”

Mr Kelleher said the memo “tells us all we need to know about where this Government’s priorities now lie.

“The fact that the Minister for Health, presiding over chaos across the health service, would personally take the time to chastise the HSE chief because he didn’t get into a few PR photos is extraordinary.

“If they are going to put pressure on the HSE chief, their personal image should be the very last issue on the agenda.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Harris said: “There are many challenges in health but also many positive initiatives being led by frontline staff. The Minister is keen to lend his support to these initiatives and the staff behind them.”