HSE U-turn means some may be allowed to keep top-ups

Additional money will be dropped for future employees in hospitals and health agencies

The HSE’s national director for human resources Barry O’Brien said if organisations made such cases and submitted the required documents he would engage with the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure on their behalf. The HSE is understood to be insisting the July deadline remains for compliance with Government pay policy.

The HSE’s national director for human resources Barry O’Brien said if organisations made such cases and submitted the required documents he would engage with the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure on their behalf. The HSE is understood to be insisting the July deadline remains for compliance with Government pay policy.

Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 01:08

Some senior executives in voluntary hospitals and health agencies, who are currently receiving highly controversial top-up allowances, may be able to keep the payments if they can show they have a contractual entitlement to them.

In April, the HSE rejected around 100 applications from voluntary hospitals and health agencies to continue making top-up payments to senior staff in addition to official salaries. This followed a wide-ranging investigation into breaches of Government pay policy in the voluntary health sector.

The HSE directed that payment of such top-ups should cease by the beginning of July.

It is understood a number of these organisations subsequently maintained they could be sued by senior staff if the payments were ended. Some also sought a HSE indemnity in the event of legal action.

The HSE rejected the provision of such indemnification.

Legal action

The Irish Times has learned that, in recent days, the HSE has written to some of the agencies and set out a scenario in which some executives could retain the controversial additional payments.

The HSE said in the letters the agencies would need to provide evidence to support claims of a contractual entitlement if they were seeking to retain existing top-up payments.

It is expected top-up payments currently made in addition to the authorised salary would be made personal to the current beneficiary. In the letters, the HSE said hospitals and agencies would need to confirm extra payments would not be made to future staff.

The HSE’s national director for human resources Barry O’Brien said if organisations made such cases and submitted the required documents he would engage with the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure on their behalf. The HSE is understood to be insisting the July deadline remains for compliance with Government pay policy.

Mr O’Brien said cases made to retain existing payments would be examined on an individual basis.

Internal audit

The Irish Times revealed last September a HSE internal audit had found that senior personnel in voluntary hospitals and agencies – known as section 38 organisations – were receiving more than €3.2 million in allowances and benefits on top of official salary rates.

The top-up revelations led directly to the scandal surrounding payments made to senior personnel in the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) and ultimately the Rehab controversy.

Section 38 organisations receive their funding directly from the State and their employees are considered to be public servants.

Following the revelations, the HSE invited these organisations to submit business cases if they wished to continue making top-up payments. In most cases, these were rejected.

Senior HSE personnel are expected to be questioned about the top-up payments when they appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Public Accounts today.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien is expected to tell the committee a report drawn up by the interim administrator appointed to run the CRC will be available early next week.

This is expected to provide more information on the background to the €742,000 retirement package authorised by the then board for its former chief executive Paul Kiely.

The HSE is also expected to tell the committee it had a financial deficit of close to €110 million by the end of April.