THE board of the Rotunda maternity hospital has strongly defended its right to pay salary top-ups, saying it has its own private income from sources such as rent from the Gate Theatre.
A letter seen by the Irish Independent which was sent to the HSE by board chairman Hilary Prentice reveals that the hospital is receiving rental income from the Gate Theatre and the Ambassador entertainment venue, both of which adjoin its campus in Dublin city centre.
The Rotunda is among the voluntary hospitals and agencies which have made a business case to the HSE for eight of its senior management staff to continue receiving top-ups to their salaries.
Ms Prentice told HSE human resources director Barry O'Brien that it is a matter for the hospital to determine the pay and conditions of employees who are engaged in "non-publicly-funded services and other business elements of the hospital", the letter reveals.
A spokesman confirmed that the Rotunda owns both the Gate Theatre and the Ambassador venue, which have been part of its original lands since 1757.
However, he declined to say how much it is getting paid, saying the "details of the commercial arrangements for these is commercially confidential".
The letter from Ms Prentice said no funds from its charity arm, the Friends of the Rotunda, is used to pay any extra allowances or payments.
She said the non-publicly-funded payments to senior staff have been in place for some years and that they are calculated for "additional work carried out to support the non-publicly-funded business elements of the hospital".
Referring to budget cuts from the HSE, she added: "It is important to note that year on year the hospital has risen to the challenge of delivering more for less."
The HSE audit, first published in the Irish Independent late last year, showed that the Rotunda Hospital was listed as paying allowances to a number of senior staff.
The master, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, was receiving a €20,000 privately funded allowance, while privately funded allowances of between €6,000 and €19,000 were listed as being paid to two other managers.
Meanwhile, the hospital board expressed concern at meetings last year about the numbers on its gynaecology waiting list – and in October it noted 50 high-risk patients.
It had to make a business case to the HSE to transfer these patients to the Mater hospital to operate on the women at a cost of €1,500 per surgery.
The board also heard about the ongoing problems posed by staffing and the infrastructure in the old building.
In one 24-hour period in October, 43 women gave birth – and "such peaks and challenges undermine the sustainability of safety", the board members were told.
Minutes of another board meeting, released under Freedom of Information, revealed how the board was critical of the HSE for cutting its budget allocation for the year.
"It would appear the Rotunda was penalised for being efficient. Of note, Beaumont hospital received €19m in extra funding. A €2.5m deficit (for the Rotunda) is projected for 2013," the minutes said.
Secretary manager Pauline Treanor told another board meeting that the biggest cost to the hospital was staffing and there is evidence to show it does not have enough staff.
The Rotunda has 30pc more junior doctors compared to the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St but the latter has 18pc more consultants.
The minutes also show concerns raised by the uncertainty over whether the Mater Hospital would terminate a pregnancy in cases where a woman's life was deemed at risk under the abortion legislation passed last summer.
The Mater has since clarified that it will carry out these terminations.