Thursday 19 October 2017

Worker overpaid by €200k after HSE failed to record reduced working hours

HSE chief Tony O'Brien. Photo: Tom Burke
HSE chief Tony O'Brien. Photo: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A health worker was overpaid nearly €200,000 after the HSE failed to record they were on reduced working hours for as long as eight years, an internal audit has revealed.

The worker, who was on reduced hours between 2002 until retirement in 2010, received €191,225 in total before the overpayment was eventually discovered.

It was uncovered in the Dublin mid-Leinster region by investigators from the HSE's own internal audit office as part of its surveillance of financial waste in the health service.

There were 1,144 overpayments totalling €2.4m, of which 34 ranged from €10,000 to €30,000. Seven ranged from €30,000 to €200,000.

Another medical scientist was paid €83,865 from October1999 to May 2003 while they were on sick leave and due no salary. This could lead to legal action.

In another case of poor control of public money, an employee who resigned from a permanent health service job in October 2008 was overpaid €46,373 because notice of her departure was not made to the payroll department until the following June.

Another overpayment of €33,841 which was made to a staff nurse, who was believed to be on a public health nurse scale, had to be written off after she took the matter to a Rights Commissioner. The payments ranged from 1996 to 2011.

The auditors discovered that 21pc of the 48 sample files examined did not contain evidence of any correspondence with employees over the overpayments, the report obtained by the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information law revealed.

A separate audit of the use of agency nurses in hospitals in the HSE South found that three full-time nurses were double-jobbing in breach of rules.

The nurses were hired on the generous agency rates while also on a full-time salary. Three other nurses were retired, but getting their full pension on top of the agency fees.

The investigators, from the audit office run by Michael Flynn, found one of the full-time nurses worked in the same hospital in which she was doing agency work.

Another swapped rosters in the other health facility where she worked to allow her fit in the agency shifts.

The auditors also warned about the practice of booking specific agency staff - who happen to be existing employees - by the unit.

A third audit of the laboratory in University Hospital Galway found two of the staff were not working their contracted hours. A deal was made to cut down on on-call spending.

It led to 68 medical scientists sharing "earnings compensation" of €952,000.

A review of absenteeism in the same hospital found it was 1.17pc above the target of 3.5pc.

It cost the hospital €5.17m in a year, but the real cost was not available due to "lack of systems to measure costs". One in seven managers had not attended training on absenteeism, even though it was mandatory.

Absenteeism was as high as 14pc among management and administrators in the neurology department and reached just over 11pc among nursing staff in St Dominic's ward.

The damning audit on wastage comes a day after HSE chief Tony O'Brien warned that providing the €430,000-a-year per patient for a drug for patients suffering a rare disease would force cuts in other services.

Irish Independent

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