Monday 11 December 2017

Over half of health bodies pay top-ups to managers

Lorcan Birthistle: CEO of Our Lady's, Crumlin
Lorcan Birthistle: CEO of Our Lady's, Crumlin

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

MORE than half the 44 hospitals and other health agencies, which are getting €1.5bn in taxpayers' money, have confirmed that they are paying top-ups to their managers.

The top-ups, which include publicly and privately funded allowances, are outlawed by the Government for staff who are on generous public salaries and pensions.

However, the latest audit by the HSE has found that 24 health organisations admit that they are breaking public pay rules. Eight did not even reply to a HSE letter asking them to confirm if they were compliant.

Just 12 of the agencies were able to tell the HSE that they were not flouting public pay rules and were fully compliant.

Another stage of verification of these voluntary bodies is now to get under way before the HSE "names and shames" the hospitals and agencies which are defying pay regulations.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly, who received the initial report on the responses yesterday, said: "Until such time as the situation in each organisation has been fully verified, none of the organisations can be deemed fully compliant."

PENSIONS

He also announced that a similar audit of salary levels and top-ups will be conducted in more than 2,000 other agencies which receive health funding grants, some of which run to well over €1m.

Although the staff of these agencies – which are involved in providing a wide range of care and support for different illness groups and home-help services – are not public servants and are not subject to pay scales, they benefit from exchequer funding.

A HSE audit carried out last year on bodies funded under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004 – which allows health bosses arrange with agencies to provide a health or social service – found that 91 senior managers were sharing €3.2m in a range of allowances taken from the public purse. And 32 executives got another €912,472 from "private sources".

A Department of Health report, drawn up earlier this year and based on the information given by the hospitals and agencies involved in disability and older people's services, said top up-payments were widespread.

The chief executive of Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Lorcan Birthistle, was listed as getting a €30,000 allowance from the hospital shop, while several senior managers in the National Maternity Hospital were cited as getting privately funded allowances of up to €39,000.

The chief executive of St Vincent's Hospital was getting an undisclosed private top-up to his salary of €145,000, while the Central Remedical Clinic in Dublin was also paying an additional salary to a manager.

The source of the private funding was unclear in several instances, although the hospitals said none was financed from donations given by the public.

The audit found that many of the allowances paid for from public funds were not authorised and there was no documentary evidence to show that the department had approved them.

There was also evidence that public money was being used for private pension contributions of up to half the person's salary in some cases.

"If an organisation wishes to make a business case for the continuation of an unapproved allowance, it is open to it to do so and any such cases will be considered," said Dr Reilly.

"A business case must also be made for the continued payment of allowances which are not encompassed by or in line with the Department of Health Consolidated Salary Scales but which may have been sanctioned in the past."

Director General of the HSE Tony O'Brien is due to appear before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday when it is expected that the top-ups will come under scrutiny.

Irish Independent

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