Saturday 26 May 2018

Senior staff in hospitals will get to keep top-ups

In the past few days, the HSE has instructed that the allowances being paid to senior doctors in voluntary hospitals in Dublin should be abolished within three months. Picture posed.
In the past few days, the HSE has instructed that the allowances being paid to senior doctors in voluntary hospitals in Dublin should be abolished within three months. Picture posed.

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

More than 200 senior doctors and hospital managers in receipt of "top-up" allowances will keep them even though the payments are in breach of the Government's pay policy, it has emerged.

This is because of the existing employment contracts between the doctors concerned and the hospitals, many of which were signed without the consent of the Health Service Executive (HSE) or the Department of Health.

In the past few days, the HSE has instructed that the allowances being paid to senior doctors in voluntary hospitals in Dublin should be abolished within three months.

However, despite this, legal contractual obligations mean that, for incumbents, the State will not be able to withdraw the top-ups.

This weekend the HSE made a determination on the business cases but the actual sanction came from the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The HSE will inform the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow of its decision in regard to the business cases put forward by the voluntary hospitals.

However, government sources have said that while sanction will be removed for future holders of these senior posts, legally binding signed contracts will make it impossible to remove the top-ups from those in place at present.

"We will probably red circle the posts, which means no one in the future can be paid above the agreed pay cap, but removing it from current post holders if contracts exist will not be possible," one government source has said.

"Existing contracts will have to be honoured. It will be about tightening up into the future," said another source.

The Sunday Independent understands that the PAC will be informed that not one of the 11 business cases submitted by the St Vincent's Hospital Group to continue making additional payments on top of salary to senior clinicians were accepted by the HSE.

Since its 2012 internal audit of such payments, the HSE has been attempting to tackle the raft of excess payments to senior doctors and administrators in the country's 43 voluntary hospitals.

The HSE has also rejected applications by the National Maternity Hospital Holles Street to continue making payments over and above the official pay rates to a number of non-medical senior staff. Similar submissions made by Tallaght Hospital to retain additional allowances were also rejected in many cases.

Since the Central Remedial Clinic controversy erupted before Christmas, the HSE has received more than 215 business cases from voluntary hospitals and health agencies for the continuation of unapproved allowances or to retain payments which were not in line with official pay scales but which may have been sanctioned in the past.

It has emerged that among the cases rejected by the HSE's review group were for additional payments made to 10 senior doctors in the St Vincent's Hospital Group as part of its "consultant-in-management" model.

Among the rejected business cases were payments of €30,080 to the director of the education and research centre, €21,505 to a palliative care senior consultant, and €19,777 to the chair of the medical board.

Sunday Independent

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