Sunday 23 November 2014

U-turn on St Vincent's pay came after HSE chief's criticism

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

Published 21/02/2014 | 02:30

Tony O'Brien
Tony O'Brien

A LAST-minute decision to cut the pay of St Vincent's Hospital's most senior staff came on foot of stinging criticism from HSE Director General Tony O'Brien.

The embattled hospital avoided a cut of 20pc to its funding by committing to be "fully compliant" with the HSE's public pay policy by March 31.

The cut to its funding was due to commence today.

The hospital had earlier been criticised for stubbornly failing to disclose the pay for its chief executive Nicholas Jermyn, as well as its governance structure at its public and private hospitals. It eventually disclosed, after significant pressure, that his salary package is worth €292,669.

Letters sent this week from Mr O'Brien to Noel Whelan, chairman of St Vincent's Healthcare Group, were aired at the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

They reveal the frustration over the hospital's continued breach of public pay scales for senior executives. In one letter sent last Tuesday, Mr O'Brien said the HSE cannot place any reliance on statements made by him and other St Vincent's executives, given their failure to "follow through" on previous commitments.

Mr O'Brien warned that unless full compliance was committed to, then St Vincent's Hospital's funding was to be cut.

He also disputed claims made by Mr Whelan that an agreement existed between St Vincent's and the HSE as to its compliance arrangements.

"What I confirm is that no agreement exists with the HSE currently. Any agreement would have to be based on actual compliance," he said.

Mr O'Brien expressed surprise at a request from St Vincent's to seek to be treated in the same manner as the embattled Central Remedial Clinic, given its board had departed.

'SURPRISED'

"I am surprised that you would wish to be in the same category as the CRC, given the implications of that for your board," Mr O'Brien said.

Mr Whelan wrote back to Mr O'Brien by email on Tuesday, signalling a commitment to comply.

But Mr O'Brien, in a second letter on Wednesday, was less than impressed. "Despite the contention in your email, it did not confirm St Vincent's absolute commitment to achieving full compliance," he said.

Mr O'Brien accused Mr Whelan of a "lack of definitiveness" in his letter.

Later the same day, Mr Whelan wrote back to Mr O'Brien to formally signal the hospital's "unambiguous intention to achieve full compliance" before March 31.

Irish Independent

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