TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has warned that voluntary hospitals will have to stop making unapproved "top up" payments to their senior executives on top of their salaries.
It came after a HSE audit revealed that the master of the largest maternity hospital in the country, Dr Rhona Mahony, is getting a privately funded top-up of €45,000 in addition to her salary and allowances of more than €236,000.
At Leader's Questions in the Dail, Mr Kenny said the Government was attempting to weed out "sweeteners" and unauthorised allowances among senior executives in the health service. He said that ordinary health service workers had already taken pay reductions and roster changes to their credit.
"The same rules have to apply to senior managers as those who are on the frontline. We have got to sort this out and that's what we'll do," he said.
Mr Kenny said that 13 of the 44 voluntary hospitals and health sector bodies audited by the HSE had confirmed they were not in compliance with public pay policy - which bans the payment of additional allowances from private funds.
"Non-exchequer funding to top up any salary is not allowed," he said.
He said that seven bodies of the 44 bodies had declared they were in compliance while the remainder had asked for more time or said they were getting legal advice before today's deadline to respond.
The issue was raised in the Dail by Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Independent TD Joan Collins. Mr Martin cited the Irish Independent's coverage of the story, saying that many voluntary hospital chief executives were getting more with €30,000 top-up payments than the €23,000 paid in starting salaries to nurses.
And he said that Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin had left out these top-up payment during his 'fatwa' on public sector allowances 18 months ago.
"It seems these Premier League allowances were exempt from the review and were not included in this review," he said.
Meanwhile, Health Minister James Reilly said he was “concerned” about the salary top-ups and was awaiting a report on the matter from the HSE.
He also said he agreed with criticisms made by INMO chief Liam Doran.
“I think Liam Doran’s comments are relevant. People want to feel that everyone’s in the same boat. Everyone in the country’s taking pain and it’s my view and the government’s view that everyone should share the pain, not just the few”.
By Michael Brennan and Lise Hand