HSE warned it cannot breach pay guidelines


THE DEPARTMENT of Health has signalled to the Health Service Executive that it cannot breach official pay guidelines for a planned new senior management position.

Over recent months the HSE has been seeking to recruit a chief operations officer – a new position which, it has argued, will play a key role in proposed reforms of its senior management structure.

It is understood that some time ago the HSE approached the Department of Health about a pay scale for the post. Sources said that it had suggested that the pay rate could be in excess of €200,000 per year in an attempt to attract international candidates.

It is understood that while the Department of Health has not formally replied, it has indicated that any figure in excess of the official pay rate would cause problems for it. The official pay rate for the proposed new chief operations officer post would be €183,774 – the salary of a national director (Level 1) in the HSE.

The HSE said yesterday that in the light of the recent election the process was paused “pending clarity around structures contained in the new programme for government”.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Dáil last week that the Government supported a strong policy of pay restraint within the public sector, including the application of pay caps.

He said that the Taoiseach and Ministers had voluntarily reduced their salary rates. The Taoiseach is paid €200,000 per year.

In the Budget last December the then minister for finance Brian Lenihan announced a proposed salary cap of €250,000 in the public sector.

However, both the current adminstration and its predecessor acknowledged that there were contractual issues surrounding the application of such a pay cap to the incumbents of posts.

The establishment of the new post of chief operations officer has been considered a priority by the HSE for years now. However, the recruitment process has been beset by various difficulties and has been the source of controversy.

The position was first advertised more than two years ago and a candidate selected as a result of this process.

However, the appointment was held up as a result of a row between the then chief executive Prof Brendan Drumm and the board of the HSE.

The dispute centred around who would have the final say in this process. The board decided not to fill the post of director of operations at that time. Last October HSE staff were informed that the chief operations officer post had been sanctioned by the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance and was to be advertised for a second time.