Hiqa paid out €128k on legal disputes

Disputes between the HSE and Hiqa over whether two care homes met acceptable standards contributed to the health watchdog’s €128,024 bill for legal proceedings in 2017.

Disputes between the HSE and Hiqa over whether two care homes met acceptable standards contributed to the health watchdog’s €128,024 bill for legal proceedings in 2017.

In the case of St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis, Hiqa wanted it to cease admitting elderly residents until it could ensure it was providing a person-centred service.

The HSE took Hiqa to court and the outcome was a grant of registration on condition that St Joseph’s inform Hiqa in relation to any future admissions, as well as providing assurances around care.

A dispute between the two state bodies also arose in the case of St Raphael’s complex for intellectually disabled persons in Youghal. The upshot was the transfer of residents to community-based residential care.

Hiqa incurred additional legal fees of almost €10,000 in reaching a termination agreement with an employee. The termination payment amounted to €137,480.

In response to queries from the Irish Examiner, Hiqa said it was sanctioned by the Department of Health and the Department Public Expenditure and the payment did not relate to an anonymous complaint made by a Hiqa staff whistleblower in November 2017. A further €80,000 was spent in 2017 on “general legal fees”.

The figures are contained in Hiqa’s Annual Report, 2017 which also shows that:

  • Almost €122,000 was paid in fees to Hiqa’s 10 board members.
  • CEO Phelim Quinn and chief inspector Mary Dunnion, were each paid between €140,000 and €150,000. Two other staff members ere paid between €130,000 and €140,000.
  • Almost €150,000 was spent on recruitment, including over €50,000 on advertisements and €56,000 on processing applications.
  • €9,600 was spent on media monitoring.
  • €837,000 went on travel and subsistence.
  • €168,000 was paid in consultancy fees, with total professional fees amounting to €604,000.
  • €1.6m was spent on agency staff.

The report shows Hiqa does not pay rent in relation to its offices at City Gate, Mahon, Cork City, where the annual rent is €370,420. Hiqa said its acquisition of an office in Cork was considered part of the Government’s Public Service Decentralisation Programme and that the OPW “centrally bears the rental costs of offices acquired through the programme”. The annual rent in relation to offices in Smithfield in Dublin is €1,177,560.

Hiqa said fees for board members “are set out by Department of Health circular and Code of Practice”.

The report also contains details of protected disclosures, with 327 items of concern in relation to health and social care services categorised as having been received from an employee of a service provider in 2017. The anonymous complaint from a Hiqa staff member was “managed under the internal protected disclosure policy and in accordance with legal advice on the presumption that it could constitute a protected disclosure”.

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