New appointee to waiting list unit

Thu, Apr 19, 2012, 01:00

The Department of Health has rejected claims that Minister for Health James Reilly has appointed a new “special advisor” at a cost of over €160,000 a year.

A spokesman for the department said new appointee, Lis Nixon was “not an advisor” and would not be advising the Minister.

Ms Nixon, who has over 10 years experience in change management and service improvement at Britain’s National Health Service, has been appointed to an executive position within the department’s Special Delivery Unit (SDU).

This unit was set up by the Minister to reduce waiting lists in public hospitals.

The spokesman said Ms Nixon had been brought in as a consultant when the department “couldn’t find anyone of sufficient experience and quality” to fill the role of director of performance improvement for unscheduled care.

He said Ms Nixon will report directly to the SDU’s chief operating officer Tony O’Brien and be paid €41,000 per quarter, or €164,000 year.

He said “she has to have her own pension arrangements, she’s paid on a quarterly basis on invoice, she’s there full-time, she gets no other benefits, she’s based in Hawkins House and she cannot claim for her travel from the UK.”

He described Ms Nixon as “a really good catch” for the department but said “she’s not an advisor and she’s not advising the Minister”.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher, described the appointment as “obscene”.

“This is an extraordinary revelation. The Minister has very serious questions to answer about how he is managing the health service and in particular the Special Delivery Unit – a concoction entirely of his own creation”.

Mr Kelleher claimed hiring Ms Nixon, and the appointment of Dr Martin Connor as the senior advisor to the SDU, pointed at an expensive attempt to address the lack of leadership coming from the Minister.

Dr Connor – who spends much of his time in the US - is employed on a three-year contract until December 2014 on a salary, including expenses, of €480,000.