Pressure on HSE after latest top-up revelations

Pressure is growing on the HSE to explain why it was “so lax” in applying rules and demanding transparency of charities and health service providers that it funds, following the latest revelations about top-up payments in the sector, this time in Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

In a strongly worded statement issued on Christmas Day, the chairman of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, said the HSE and the Department of Health have more questions to answer themselves than the charities under their control.

The Fianna Fáil TD was one of several politicians who criticised the decision by the hospital to release details of the payments on the night before Christmas Eve.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said the timing was “a blatant attempt to minimise the story” and showed “an arrogant disregard for the notion of transparency and accountability”.

Saint Vincent’s Hospital admitted its chief executive, Nicholas Jermyn, has his HSE salary topped up with €136,591 of private funds. Information released on the night of Dec 23 shows he took home a salary of €292,669, made up of €136,282 from the public sector and €136,591 from the private sector, with a privately funded car allowance of €19,796.

The HSE has requested a meeting with the chairman of the Saint Vincent’s Group on Jan 6 to discuss how it can become compliant with public pay policy.

But Mr McGuinness said the HSE is asking questions of St Vincent’s, and others, “that it was in a position to ask four or five years ago”.

“I would prefer if it explained why its senior managers were so lax in applying the rules and demanding transparency and accountability. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a system of nudges and winks, which is growing bigger by the day, has now been uncovered, and responsibility for it is being passed around like a hot potato.”

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD used his statement to criticise the “lack of governance and willingness to take responsibility by those in power” which he said has corroded politics and public service in Ireland for generations.

“That culture has done great damage to this country and no significant attempt has been made to deal with it. Indeed, the reverse is true — considerable efforts have been and are still being made to ensure that those who sit at the top table are protected from the need to change.

“In comparison, the pain, suffering, and disappointment that our people are experiencing bites deeper and austerity fills the black hole in our finances created by waste and mismanagement.”


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