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St John of God tells HSE it is facing major funding crisis

Charity which gave massive salary top-ups asks Department of Health for €7m

John Pepper, Group CEO, Saint John of God Group. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

The St John of God organisation, which is at the centre of a controversy over revelations of massive salary top-ups for senior managers, has warned the Health Service Executive it is facing a major funding crisis.

The organisation has written to the Department of Health in recent weeks saying it needs about €7million in additional money.

Representatives of St John of God met the HSE on Friday to discuss funding and governance issues.

A number of donors to St John of God have said they will stop supporting the charity

The meeting came after revelations in The Irish Times of €6 million in secret payments to senior executives at the charity. This included lump-sum payments made in 2013 of about €1.8 million after the Vatican told the order to sort out any liabilities before restructuring.

A number of donors to St John of God have said they will stop supporting the charity after the undisclosed payments to senior executives were revealed in a HSE audit.

Minister of State for disability affairs Finian McGrath said he was aware of a “potential deficit” identified by St John of God Community Services and he understood HSE senior management is in ongoing discussions with the charity on the issue.

St John of God provides mental health and intellectual disability services for 60,000 people across the State every day and receives nearly €130 million in State funding annually. It declined to comment on the meeting with the HSE or its need for extra funding.

The HSE confirmed at the weekend that St John of God had “indicated their perspective regarding finance deficits”.

Challenges

In the letter to the Department of Health secretary general, Jim Breslin, the organisation outlined in general terms the challenge it faces in the delivery of some services in light of existing levels of funding.

These include the challenges of meeting new standards imposed by the Health Information and Quality Authority for services for people with intellectual disability, and the extra costs involved in “decongregating” people from large institutional homes to smaller units based in the community.

Asked whether St John of God had signalled it may have to withdraw from some services, the HSE said: “The HSE has met with senior management of St John of God Community Services and board representation and have agreed to work to ensure it continues to deliver quality, safe and effective services. [The] HSE also works closely with the regulator (Hiqa) to ensure that a combined effort is made to avoid any scenario where services are withdrawn. Both [the] HSE and St John of God are committed to this aim.”

The HSE said it had established a senior management taskforce to work with St John of God on improving governance and regulatory compliance.

“The HSE through its service arrangements, expects all providers to work within the allocation provided and has, in particular, made substantial additional funding provision to SJOG to deliver services and achieve sought-after outcomes. It is of significant concern to [the] HSE that St John of God must ensure appropriate governance measures,” it added. “When taxpayers’ money is allocated to disability services there is a duty and expectation that strong governance procedures are in place.”

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