Hospital, charity chiefs get €3.2m in hidden extras

Jonathan Irwin

Senior voluntary hospital and agency bosses are receiving “at least €3.224m” per year in 36 hidden extra fees on top of their six-figure salaries.

Documents seen by the Irish Examiner show the huge figure is being paid by the taxpayer to 191 senior managers in voluntary hospitals and HSE-linked charities across the country.

A HSE probe into the issue, which can be read at www.irishexaminer.com, has raised serious concerns over multiple breaches of the “one job, one salary” policy in place since the 1970s.

And while the initial furore has surrounded a series of payments to hospital CEOs, including a €30,000 payment to Crumlin manager Lorcan Birthistle from the facility’s tuck shop, the records reveal the problem runs far deeper.

According to the official figures, the taxpayer-funded extra payments include:

- €172,977 in unspecified allowances shared between 17 senior managers;

- €159,027 in “masters allowances” shared between three hospital CEOs;

- €90,837 in “motor allowances” given to seven senior officials;

- €34,654 in “health insurance” contributions to 12 managers. These range from 6% to 46.6% of each person’s salary;

- €82,436 in “additional responsibility/extra duty” fees to 15 more officials.

The files note a large number of senior officials are receiving more than one top-up allowance, while 13 groups are paying extra fees to 34 managers from private, non-state funds — opening the question of where this money comes from.

In addition, of the 43 voluntary hospitals and agencies in Ireland, just five are operating within official policy.

Ten are not, eight have issued “holding” letters, nine are seeking legal advice, and 11 have not responded at all.

Earlier this week, it was revealed the private top-up payments include €45,000 paid to Holles St master, Dr Rhona Mahony, who already receives €236,000 a year.

However, the records show she is not alone, with those in charge of the National Rehabilitation Hospital (€110,808 salary), the Rotunda (€183,562 salary), and disability service Stewart’s Hospital (€174,928 salary) receiving extra fees.

Jonathan Irwin, the chief executive of the Jack and Jill Foundation — which provides vital care to children with severe life-shortening illnesses — said the hidden top-ups were insulting to patients.

“I’d be so embarrassed to take that money if I were them. Out of that €3.2m, €2.7m would keep Jack and Jill children warm and comfortable for over a year.

“Every €16 would pay for another hour of specialist nursing care for them.

“I personally think when you hire somebody and agree a wage, that is that,” he said, adding: “There’s a sort of ingrained resistance in people to charities, a feeling of what are they going to do with your money. And then you hear something like this.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary, Liam Doran, told RTÉ Radio he mirrored the concerns, saying senior management were living in a “parallel universe” if they thought the top-pay was acceptable in an era of frontline cutbacks.

When it was pointed out that some of the additional allowances may have been scrapped as a result of the Haddington Road Agreement on public service pay, he added: “Forgive me, but I won’t quite be organising a church-gate collection [for them].”


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