Nursing home charges controversy to cost State more than €450m

Minster told about 400 doctors may sue State over failure to pay salary increases

The State's final bill for repaying people who were illegally charged for accommodation in long-stay public facilities will reach more than €450 million, Minister for Health Simon Harris has been told by his officials.

Following the controversy more than a decade ago over people with medical-card entitlements being charged for care in State-run facilities, the then government put in place a repayment scheme.

Mr Harris was told that to date about 20,300 repayments had been made at a cost of €452 million.

The Department of Health said a very small number of cases remained to be finalised.


Separately, briefing documents for the new Minister indicate up to 400 hospital consultants may take legal action against the State for compensation arising from the failure to pay them significant contractual salary increases dating back to 2009.

The documents say that in the months after two doctors won cases in the Employment Appeals Tribunal last December, the Health Service Executive had received nearly 400 pay claims from solicitors representing consultants on the same issue.

Court claim

Department of Health officials said these claims could be the subject of

High Court

hearings in the future.

Last December, the Employment Appeals Tribunal found in favour of two doctors who had taken “payment of wages” claims against the HSE for a failure by the State to pay annual increases due under a revised contract introduced in 2008.

The briefing material says the then minister for health Mary Harney delayed the payment of the first two phases of the increase to January 2009 and then decided not to sanction the outstanding phase due from June 2009.

The Irish Times reported in April that the Attorney General had advised the HSE to settle cases. The overall bill could reach up to €300 million.

Mr Harris was also warned in the briefing material that the European Commission may again take Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to put in place measures to ensure non-consultant hospital doctors were in compliance with European working-time limits. It says a previous case taken by the commission was lost on a technicality.

It also says that the Department of Heath is to carry out a review of pay levels for the second tier of management in voluntary hospitals and health agencies.

Mr Harris was also informed that while progress had been made year-on-year in reducing out-patient waiting times, “this downward trend is not mirrored in in-patient/day care waiting lists”.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent