Friday 22 November 2019

Two staff on board of delay-hit hospital still being paid €250,000

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

TWO staff on combined salaries totalling more than €250,000 are continuing to be employed in the offices of the national children's hospital project team despite the long delay in choosing its location, the Irish Independent has learned.

Jim Farragher, financial controller and acting chief executive of the national paediatric hospital development board, as well as its medical director Emma Curtis, have limited duties while Health Minister James Reilly waits to make a decision on the hospital's location.

Dr Curtis, who is a consultant in Tallaght Hospital, receives her regular salary of €170,000 but is seconded to the project office for three days of her working week.

Mr Farragher is continuing to receive a monthly salary of around €6,600 a month and Dr Curtis is receiving more than €14,000 a month -- even though their work responsibilities in planning the hospital have dramatically reduced in recent months.

Dr Curtis' salary payments have topped €600,000 since 2008 when she was appointed to the role. In the same period, Mr Farragher's total salary would have topped €280,000.

A government-appointed board was set up in 2007 and it recruited staff to organise the development of the new hospital at the Mater hospital site in Dublin.

But in March their role was thrown into confusion after An Bord Pleanala rejected the board's planning application, criticising the height and scale of the proposed building.

The latest delay to hit the project came in the last two weeks when Dr Reilly announced he would postpone a decision on the location of the hospital until September.

The delay has left the board and the two support staff in a virtual state of close down.

A spokesman for the board confirmed to the Irish Independent that the combined salaries of both Mr Farragher and Dr Curtis, including social welfare and pension costs, is around €250,000 and both remain in place.

No full-time chief executive has been sought after the departure of Eilish Hardiman in 2010, and Mr Farragher, who was the financial controller, has been in an acting role. Dr Curtis, a paediatrician in Tallaght Hospital, spends two-and-a-half days at the project office where she is looking at how the different medical specialities will work once the three existing children's hospitals are amalgamated.

Dr Curtis is paid by Tallaght Hospital but the hospital is compensated for her secondment to the project office by funding from the development board.

When Dr Curtis is on secondment away from Tallaght Hospital she is replaced by a locum consultant.

A spokesman for the board said there were still a number of number of administerial functions which had to be carried out to "ensure everything is in good working order".

The board, chaired by businessman Harry Crosbie, was due to be re-appointed in June but it has now been extended to September pending Dr Reilly's decision. Each member of the board is entitled to annual fees of €7,000 each.

"The decision was that not closing down the office would be a smaller cost compared to winding it down and having to open it up again," said a spokesman.

Irish Independent

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