St Vincent's boss defends its secrecy on salary top-ups
THE board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group has defended its refusal to divulge the top-up salaries it was paying executives -- despite getting an annual €200m from the taxpayer.
Professor Noel Whelan, chairman of the group, which includes St Vincent's private and public hospitals, as well as St Michael's Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, refused to agree that it was "regrettable" that it had refused to divulge the extent of its lavish salary top-ups for so long.
Prof Whelan was being quizzed by members of the Dail Committee on Public Accounts, where the group was called to answer why it was paying its group chief executive Nicholas Jermyn and six other managers a top-up.
After earlier stubbornly refusing to divulge salary levels, the group issued a statement on December 23, revealing that Mr Jermyn was getting a salary of €136,282 and a privately funded payment of €136,951, along with a car allowance of €19,796.
The director of finance Cormac Maloney is on €140,876, with €32,544 of that privately funded, and director of nursing Mary Duff earns €96,405, including €14,853 that is privately funded.
Prof Whelan said the group was acting on legal advice in saying that it was in compliance with public pay rules and this led to it holding out on the information. But after a board meeting was convened, they changed their minds "in the public interest."
They had consulted two legal firms and received advice from senior counsel, Michael McDowell, the former Progressive Democrat minister.
Pressed by members of the committee, Prof Whelan said: "We are going to swing around into compliance." Mr Jermyn is chief executive of the public hospital and is also group chief executive.
Prof Whelan said they still believed they were in compliance with public pay policy but they were addressing the top-ups and were in talks with the HSE.
They intended to pay Mr Jermyn entirely from the proceeds of its private hospital and he would no longer take his public salary.
His new salary would be "negotiated". The top-ups were still being paid but the group hoped to have an agreement by the end of March.
The arrangement will open the way for the appointment of a new manager of the public hospital.
HSE auditor Geraldine Smith, who repeatedly asked for the information as part of an audit, was not given the details.
Mr Whelan said: "We had not divulged any information in relation to the salaries of the small number of executives involved as there were issues, including those of contract law and data protection, to be considered.
"There were no public or charity funds involved. Let me stress: no funding was used from charitable donations.
"The group's charity fundraising body, St Vincent's Foundation, is run entirely on a voluntary basis. The funds raised philanthropically go to the aims and objectives of St Vincent's Foundation."
He added: "Financial clarity exists as between the three hospitals. The financial accounts and the bank accounts for the three hospitals are separate."