Vincent’s refuses to divulge details of top-up payments

Hospital warned over compliance with public sector pay guidelines

The HSE’s head of human resources Barry O’Brien (above) said in his view the hospital was currently in breach of public sector pay guidelines. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The HSE’s head of human resources Barry O’Brien (above) said in his view the hospital was currently in breach of public sector pay guidelines. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 19:03

St Vincent’s University Hospital has again refused to say how much it is paying in top-up allowances to senior staff members.

However, it insists the allowances are drawn exclusively from private funding and that the HSE has been aware of the payments since 2009.

In a letter to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee this evening, the hospital’s chief executive Nicholas Jermyn said it received legal advice which stated the payment were not breaching public sector pay policy.

He said the HSE had been informed in 2009 that three senior executives had contracts of service for work carried out for the private interests of St Vincent’s Hospital Group.

These sums of money were fully taxed and sourced exclusively from income generated by St Vincent’s Private Hospital.

“There are no public sector or charitable funds involved in this remunderation,” Mr Jermyn said.

The hospital’s chief executive said he would be happy to share legal advice with the Public Accounts Committee at a future stage, once it had been considered by the hospital’s board.

The explanation, however, is unlikely to satisify member of the Public Accounts Committee which today called for full disclosure on top-up payments at the hospital.

The hospital was warned today that it risks losing State funding unless it reveals how much it is paying senior managers in unauthorised private allowances.

At meeting of the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon regarding controversial top-up payments, HSE’s officials confirmed they were prepared to withdraw public funds unless the hospital complied with rules on public sector pay.

Official policy prohibits any form of unauthorised private payment outside of State-funded salaries.

At today’s meeting the secretary general of the Department of Health Ambrose McLoughlin said he was “appalled” at the actions of the hospital and called on it to reveal details of the payments immediately.

The HSE’s head of human resources Barry O’Brien said in his view the hospital was currently in breach of public sector pay guidelines, which could have “severe consequences” for the hospital. He said funds were cut for the hospital, it would be targeted in the area of pay and would not affect frontline patient services.

New correspondence between the HSE and St Vincent’s from last October and November shows the hospital’s board and head of human resources have insisted on a number of occasions that it complies with public sector pay. However, it has repeatedly refused to reveal details of the salaries on the basis that contracts of employment with these senior staff are confidential and that it has statutory obligations under data protection legislation.

Last month, John McPhillips, the hospital’s director of human resources, wrote to the HSE to say that “based on our interpretation” of public sector pay policy, it was in compliance with official rules. Committee members were told the latest audit by the HSE into top-up payments shows a total of 13 voluntary hospitals and health agencies have collectively payed more than €900,000 in additional remuneration and benefits to executives from funds drawn from unknown private sources. In total, around 35 staff have received these top-up payments, a fraction of the thousands of staff employed by these State-funded organisation.

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