Health providers ordered to stop top-ups

A raft of legal challenges are anticipated after hospitals and healthcare providers were given three months to stop allowance and top-up payments being made to more than 140 senior managers.

The Health Service Executive has rejected the majority of business cases made for the retention of these payments and written to section 38 agencies — voluntary healthcare providers who get funding from the State — telling them to stop them “as a matter of urgency”.

The HSE said it is “not the employer of the individuals in receipt of the allowances” and any legal considerations would be between the employees and the agencies themselves.

It acknowledged that there will be legal obstacles involved and has given the agencies until July 1 so the changes are made “in a legally compliant manner” and “mitigating risk to the greatest extent possible”.

John McGuinness, the chairman of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, which is examining the payments, criticised the HSE and said it has a “case to answer” before the committee about how these widespread payments were allowed to develop over the years.

He said he was “alarmed” that 143 cases were made to keep the payments and that the HSE is now giving them three months.

“There will be legal challenges, there is no doubt about that. Contracts are in place and you can’t just tear them up. It shows a terrible lack of management on the part of the HSE and an incompetence that they didn’t resolve this at a far earlier stage,” he said.

Among the payments the HSE wants stopped are:

- “Externally funded” pension contributions to five managers at the Central Remedial Clinic;

- €11,892 “car allowance” paid to the chief executive of the Daughters of Charity Service for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, on top of his €136,282 salary;

- “Fundraising allowances” of €7,000 paid to the chief executive of Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, and €6,000 paid to its director of finance;

- €11,485 “company secretary allowance” paid to the chief executive of the South Infirmary, Cork, on top of a €104,000 salary;

- €32,544 of “privately sourced allowance” paid to the director of finance at St Vincent’s Hospital, on top of €108,332 salary;

- €39,000 of “externally funded” top-up to the €104,000 salary of the secretary manager of Holles Street Maternity Hospital;

- €7,591 “farm allowance” paid to a Brothers of Charity manager in the south-east for management of land on grounds of one of its residential properties.

The HSE — which funded section 38 agencies to the tune of €2.65bn in 2012 — is holding out the threat to cut their funding. A spokesman said last night it would “review the relationships” with those who do not comply.

The HSE has also identified 33 senior staff members in social care organisations — mostly providing services for people with intellectual disabilities — whose salaries should be reviewed.

These include 14 members in the Brothers of Charity whose pay ranges from €67,000 to €106,000, the chief executive of the Cope Foundation, whose salary is €121,600, and its director of nursing, who earns €89,120.

It recommends a “review or sizing” be undertaken “to ensure the pay rates reflect the comparable size, scale, and complexity of each organisation”.

A separate review into alleged top-up fees paid to the master of the Holles Street Maternity Hospital, Rhona Mahony, has been launched by the HSE. She was left out of the wider top-ups inquiry due to “conflicting views” as to the nature of her allowances.

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