Saturday 1 October 2016

75 health workers could keep unapproved payments

Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30

PAC chairman John McGuinness expressed concern that the top-ups controversy was continuing, given that it first emerged in the autumn of 2013
PAC chairman John McGuinness expressed concern that the top-ups controversy was continuing, given that it first emerged in the autumn of 2013

Up to 75 staff at voluntary hospitals and disability agencies could be allowed to continue receiving unapproved allowances on top of their salaries.

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The Department of Health is considering whether or not to allow the top-up payments to continue after several organisations submitted business cases for the retention of the arrangements.

The revelation means the long-running controversy over health service top-ups is likely to continue for some time.

A HSE report supplied to the Dáil's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), revealed 202 business cases were made by hospitals and disability agencies for the continuation of unapproved payments.

More than 140 of these related to senior managers.

The majority of the business cases have since been dropped, rejected, or have ceased to be an issue due to retirements.

However, 75 cases were forwarded by the HSE to the Department of Health for it to consider whether the arrangements should be allowed to continue.

If the additional payments are approved by the department, they will only last for the period the individual employee remains in their position.

Whoever ultimately replaces them on retirement would not be entitled to the same conditions and their pay would be subject to public service caps.

The HSE report said the submissions had been made "where individual employees are deemed to have an entitlement by virtue of their employment contractual rights."

All of the documentation was reviewed by the HSE in consultation with its legal team.

The report said that in line with pay policy, the HSE had requested that the Department of Health consider sanctioning the continuation of the specified remuneration, allowances or perks on an individual basis.

The report said decisions on the individual cases were awaited from the department.

It remains unclear when these decisions can be expected.

Among the additional payments under consideration are an €18,500 allowance being paid to a member of staff at Beaumont Hospital, a €20,000 allowance related to a position at the Coombe, a €9,600 on-call allowance for a staff member at Leopardstown Hospital, and a €14,900 allowance paid to a worker at Temple Street Children's Hospital.

Insisted

HSE bosses had previously insisted top-up payments should end by July of last year.

However, it is understood many organisations maintained they could be sued by senior staff if the payments were ended. Some sought an indemnity from the HSE in the event of being sued. This was rejected by the HSE.

PAC chairman John McGuinness expressed concern that the top-ups controversy was continuing, given that it first emerged in the autumn of 2013.

"I am surprised that it is dragging on. It does need to be resolved," he said. "It shows that within the HSE and the Department of Health there is a complete lack of firm intent to deal with this problem."

Mr McGuinness also called on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to get involved and take firm action on the issue.

"They are putting these guidelines in place, but they need to do more to ensure they are enforced," he said.

Irish Independent

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