HSE owed €290m for the use of public facilities

Administration and delays by doctors are holding up repayments, PAC hears

More than 50 medical consultants are "years" behind in signing off on claim forms that would release money owed to the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Dáil Public Accounts Committee has heard.

The HSE is owed more than €290 million in income for the use of public facilities by private patients, but administrative issues and delays by insurers and consultants have delayed the payment of this money.

The delay in paying the money due to the taxpayer had increased from 148 debtor days in 2011 to 186 days last year, the committee heard.

HSE chief financial officer Stephen Mulvany said the executive was experiencing significant difficulties with health insurers in obtaining sign-off and payment of the money due.


But delays by consultants in processing claim forms were also contributing to the problem, with almost half of the total delay down to the top five consultants with long delays in each hospital.


Committee chairman John McGuinness described the situation as ridiculous and said it was clear the HSE was failing to bring the consultants responsible for the delays into line. Ultimately, the taxpayer was bearing the cost. He suggested it was time for the health service to “kick ass” and deal with the long-running issue.

Mr Mulvany said the consultants were busy people and their focus was on patients. While disciplinary action was a significant step, it would have to be considered.

The bulk of the €22 million tax settlement reached between the HSE and the Revenue Commissioners in recent weeks related to the late payment of employers’ PRSI, the committee was also told.

Late payment

Mr Mulvany said €18 million of the settlement was in respect of tax with a further €4 million relating to interest and penalties. He said €14 million was in respect of payroll taxes with the bulk relating to the late payment of employers’ PRSI.

He said about €2.5 million was in relation to VAT.

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming said the public would be shocked to learn the HSE did not pay over PRSI contributors on behalf of employees on time. He said the HSE appeared to be trying to minimise the issue by “whinging” that it only related to a tiny fraction of the organisation’s overall tax payments.

Mr Mulvany said it was not seeking to minimise the issue but to put it in context that 99.9 per cent was paid.

He said what had occurred was a gap between contracts of service and contractors for service in relation to a small number of employees.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times