High earners keep top-ups as HSE fears legal action
ALMOST 70 highly paid health managers and doctors will be allowed to hold on to lucrative salary top-ups because it is cheaper than being sued for a breach of contract, the Health Service Executive has admitted.
Barry O'Brien, head of human resources at the HSE, said the 67 employees are claiming they have contracts of employment which secure the payments.
This is in spite of a recommendation from an internal review group that all the allowances be stopped, said Mr O'Brien.
If they tried to remove the top-ups the managers could launch a legal action which could prove costly, he told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.
"If there is a legal contract in place and you seek to alter it then you are likely to lose. It would not be prudent to spend taxpayers' money in that way," he added. Each will be looked at on a case by case basis.
Committee chairman Deputy Jerry Buttimer said that given the recommendations to abolish all the allowances the approach taken by the HSE amounted to something of "a cod". The HSE was updating the committee on the scandal of top-ups paid to a range of managers and doctors in disability agencies and hospitals. The individual payments to agencies such as the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) were first revealed in the Irish Independent.
Out of the remaining 143, just 47 have given up the top-up.
The 67 who are likely to be allowed to hold on to the payments have submitted documentation to the HSE to back up their case.
Another 14 are also claiming they have contracts but have yet to provide the proof, even though the deadline was July 1. The HSE said it was "working with another four agencies" to get them compliant.
There are eight managers in the CRC who are being dealt with "under a separate process".
The top-ups are being paid in Section 38 agencies. There are 44 of these agencies funded by the HSE at a cost of around €2.5bn, said Laverne McGuinness, deputy head of the HSE.
The agencies, which are claiming to have an employment contract which provides for the top-up, have obtained legal advice to ensure that action taken is done so in a legally compliant manner thereby mitigating risk to the greatest extent possible, she said
"This documentation is being re- viewed by the HSE and where considered appropriate the HSE will seek formal approval from the Department of Health on behalf of the agencies to red-circle these arrangements as personal to the holder."
Referring to Section 39 health agencies, which are also funded by the HSE but not subject to public pay scales, she said the information it received from those getting more than €3m annually showed 24 senior managers are in receipt of an annual salary in excess of €100,000.
"In addition, 34 of 136 management positions with agencies receive additional benefits, such as private health insurance or a company car," she added.