Drug firms are paying wages of children's hospital staff
Drug companies are paying the wages of a significant number of staff in the country's children's hospitals, the Irish Independent has learned.
Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin, which has been in the eye of the storm over waiting lists for scoliosis patients, confirmed that pharmaceutical companies pay for a nurse and a health and social care worker.
The companies are Nutricia Ireland , which specialises in the delivery of advanced medical nutrition, and Abbvie, which develops medicines for a range of conditions affecting children.
The nurses' salaries costs are €63,623 and the payment for the health and social care professional is €31,410.
A spokesman for Tallaght Hospital, which incorporates the National Children's Hospital, also confirmed that there are three junior doctors and two nurses whose salaries are funded by the drug companies.
He said they are all involved in research and some of the doctors also contribute to the regular on-call rota. The companies are Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi. All are paid according to HSE pay scales.
Temple Street Hospital told the Irish Independent that three posts are funded by drugs companies. They include a senior physiotherapist, a consultant and a research nurse at the National Centre for Inherited Metabolic Disorders.
"All of the part-time posts are research-based," she said. The part funding of the senior physiotherapist post is for the assessment and input into treatment of children undergoing ezyme replacement therapy (ERT) and has contributed to research nationally and internationally.
"This funding will cease with research ending mid-2017 on completion of research programme," she said.
The part funding of the consultant post is for metabolic disease-related research and the research nurse is also examining enzyme replacement therapy.
A spokesman for the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), which represents drugs companies, said these payments are referred to as "transfer of value" agreements, where the industry supports to healthcare professionals and organisations.
"It is quite common for companies to support staff costs in hospitals in a range of areas and is not confined to research.
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"This could, for example, be specialist nursing posts to support community or other programmes," he said.
"Transfer of value would also cover medical education and the provision of equipment," he added. Any payments to hospitals must now be publicly disclosed, he said.
Drug companies pay out around €17m overall to doctors and hospitals.
A spokesman for Health Minister Simon Harris revealed he asked HSE chief Tony O'Brien to assess best practice and transparency in this area and determine if any further policy action is required.