Saturday 25 November 2017

Hospital sought to pay top-up bonuses despite HSE ban

Paula Lawler of the HSE dismissed St Vincent's' claim for extra resources.
Paula Lawler of the HSE dismissed St Vincent's' claim for extra resources.
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

One of the country's largest hospitals sought to pay senior medical executives top-up bonuses worth tens of thousands of euro - even after the Government repeatedly told it such bonuses could not be paid any more.

The major row over top-up allowances between the Health Service Executive and St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, is revealed in newly released documents obtained by the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information act.

Early last year, St Vincent's was threatened with having its budget cut if it did not comply with Government rules on pay, but the documents show it wanted to pay a series of top-up allowances to new staff members as late as last autumn.

The hospital group sought to have an allowance worth €13,000 a year retained for a new chief pharmacist which it was recruiting, but the HSE told it that it could not.

In response, St Vincent's Chief Executive, Kilian McGrane, argued that the position was now at risk of not being filled if the allowance was pulled.

"It will be very difficult to attract candidates to the position when the post in other hospitals is remunerated at a higher level," he said.

"At no stage did the hospital understand that this allowance was to be discontinued. The removal of this allowance will result in a pay/grading anomaly and will act as a total disincentive to attracting the calibre of candidate required to take up such roles," he added.

Mr McGrane requested that the HSE give "careful consideration" to reversing the decision to discontinuing the allowance.

St Vincent's also sought approval to pay a head of department allowance of €3,000 to a new principal social worker at the hospital, but this was also shot down by the HSE.

In December, HSE Deputy National Director for Human Resources, Paula Lawler, said it was "inappropriate" to continue such payments.

She added that the original allowance to the previous chief pharmacist was approved on a "personal basis" and pay policy does not allow it to be extended.

"I must advise that the payment of this allowance should cease and there is no approval to extend this payment to any future recruits," she wrote.

The hospital was granted permission to pay Prof Michael Keane a clinical director's allowance, believed to be in excess of €20,000 a year.

St Vincent's said neither of the allowances have been paid and will not be paid unless HSE approval is granted. The HSE said it has referred the whole allowance issue to the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure for adjudication.

Irish Independent

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