Holles St board surprised that private top-up pay made public
THE board of the National Maternity Hospital expressed surprise that details of "top-up" allowances to senior staff, which they believed were confidential, had been made public.
Their shock emerged at a board meeting of the hospital- which received €42m in public funding - as members met behind closed doors to discuss the fallout under "special business".
The Irish Independent first reported the individual allowances paid to senior managers in a range of Section 38-funded hospitals and disability agencies which had been documented in a Health Service Executive (HSE) audit.
According to the audit, four senior managers in the National Maternity Hospital were receiving privately funded top-up allowances. They included Master Dr Rhona Mahony, who was receiving €45,000, and the secretary manager, who was getting €39,000. Also included were the director or nursing, who was receiving an allowance of €37,000, and the financial controller, who was listed as receiving a €30,000 allowance.
The board meeting of November 20 last year was told the hospital provided the information to the HSE as part of a confidential audit which had been "leaked to the media".
Dr Mahony eventually released a public statement a day later on November 21 - saying she had been "vilified" and the €45,000 was generated by private fees from seeing insured patients.
Details of how the hospital board responded to the controversy at its October and November meetings are revealed for the first time in minutes released to the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information rules.
The November meeting was told that no public comment would be made on the allowances until the "clear legal position is advised".
The minutes noted the effect it was having on Dr Mahony personally, and her family.
"A number of members of the committee contributed, expressing support for the Master and their disappointment at the nature of media reports which focused around the National Maternity Hospital, despite many other agencies being involved," it said.
The meeting was told that such payments were "contractual arrangements" between the hospital and individuals but said no statement would be issued at that time. Urgent legal advice was being obtained by its finance committee.
The following board discussion on December 18 heard how a meeting had since taken place with HSE executives. Dr Mahony had met with HSE chief Tony O'Brien and clarified a number of issues arising out of media commentary.
"Despite this meeting, the HSE then raised further queries in relation to private entities," the board minutes said.
The HSE told the delegation it could not guarantee the privacy of any information provided. It wanted the hospital to sign a compliance agreement on new governance rules.