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Friday 19 September 2014

Children's hospital needed €8.5m overdraft last year

Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent

Published 19/03/2014 | 02:30

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Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin had an €8.5m overdraft last year
Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin had an €8.5m overdraft last year

A leading children's hospital, which is battling to secure top-up payments for five senior staff, needed an overdraft facility of €8.5m last year.

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Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin more than tripled its overdraft in the final quarter of 2013, the Irish Independent has learnt.

It was during this period that the hospital admitted that it used the proceeds of an on-site shop to pay a €30,000 salary top-up for its chief executive.

It has now submitted a business case to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to formally sanction top-ups for five senior staff, including the chief executive, Lorcan Birthistle, to bring his remuneration to €140,808.

Freedom of Information documents now show that the hospital's board gave the go-ahead to sign off on an overdraft of €2.8m until the end of September, rising to €8.5m for the last three months of 2013.

CONCERN

Minutes of hospital board meetings reveal continued concern during the year about its ability to manage its budget, including an instruction from the HSE to make €4m in savings through "cost containment".

In July, the board gave its permission to Mr Birthistle to co-sign the necessary paperwork for the massive overdraft facility with Allied Irish Banks.

At the same meeting, board members discussed the growing challenge in getting enough children who are private patients into private beds in the hospital, the documents obtained under Freedom of Information show.

The board noted the decrease in private patients who had insurance in the light of more families having to give up their cover and rely on the public system instead.

In September, the hospital board said it was not prepared to accept the transfer of young children from Tallaght who had orthopaedic conditions without the proper funding.

Around 75 of the children who needed orthopaedic surgery were transferred to Crumlin since the beginning of August because of cuts in services in Tallaght.

"The board directed that its concerns regarding the transfer of these orthopaedic surgical trauma patients from Tallaght be recorded and stated that it is not prepared to accept the transfer of patients and risk without adequate resources."

During the year, the hospital board also discussed its "public relations" strategy in the wake of revelations about the use of contaminated instruments on children needing investigation.

Board members were also critical in October at the lack of communication with the three children's hospitals, Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght, about the proposed new national children's hospital.

The hospital refused to release the minutes of a special board meeting held late last year to discuss the fallout from the top-ups controversy.

A spokesman for Crumlin told the Irish Independent that it was not unusual for voluntary hospitals to have overdrafts with the approval of the HSE as a means of cash flow, and it is seen a part of their overall budget for the year.

The Irish Independent previously reported that the other leading children's hospital, Temple Street in north inner city Dublin, also had to secure an overdraft facility in June of €5.8m. Temple Street said it was paying salary top-ups to a small number of staff last year.

Irish Independent

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