HSE head concerned over pay savings after Croke Park collapse
Not appropriate to seek savings in other areas at this stage - Tony O’Brien
The head of the HSE has expressed concern over the fate of over €250 million in projected pay savings in the health service following the rejection of the Croke Park II agreement. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES
The head of the HSE has expressed concern about the fate of over €250 million in projected pay savings in the health service following the rejection of the Croke Park II agreement.
HSE director designate Tony O’Brien told the Public Accounts Committee he had some concern about delivery of these savings in the current industrial relations environment. However, he said the Government had put in place a process to restart talks and until this was completed it was difficult to be certain about the outcome.
Croke Park II envisaged savings in pay and flexibility of €150 million while savings of €106 million were due under the first agreement.
Mr O’Brien pointed out that the savings from Croke Park II were not due to kick in until July and said it wasn’t appropriate at this stage to look for savings in other areas.
He told Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin that he had a view on the advisability of seeking pay cuts from health workers and had expressed this to Minister for Health James Reilly. However, he did not feel it was appropriate to express this opinion at the committee.
The HSE, which received a supplementary budget of €148 million in 2011 and €360 million last year, was €7 million over budget in current spending at the end of March, he committee heard.
The HSE was owed €61 million at the end of 2012 by private health insurers as a result of delays in consultants completing claim forms for private work performed in public hospitals, Mr O’Brien told the committee. This figure is down from €70.4 million the previous year.
He said the average number of days it took consultants to return the forms was reducing, from 62 in 2010 to 44 in 2011, and he was confident a target of 20 days would be reached this year.
However, the number of days it took the HSE to get the cash it was owed was increasing, because delays in processing were occurring on the private insurance side.
Mr O’Brien declined to discuss the Savita Halappanavar case, saying it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so in advance of the publication of the expert review into her death commissioned by the HSE.