Some hospitals claim pay compliance, says HSE

PAC set to hear some agencies indicating pay which is not in line with official policy

HSE director general Tony O’Brien. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

HSE director general Tony O’Brien. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Health Service Executive has told a Dáil committee that some State-funded hospitals and agencies are claiming to be compliant with Government pay policy while identifying individual exceptions to the rules governing remuneration for senior staff.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee that of 42 responses received from voluntary hospitals and health agencies (known as Section 38 organisations), 30 have categorised themselves as being compliant with Government pay policy, with 12 saying they were not compliant.

A total of 15 agencies which are asserting compliance have indicated that remuneration is being paid which is not in line with official policy, he said.

He is expected also to state that seven other agencies were identified through information provided to internal auditors as paying non-compliant remuneration.

Mr O’Brien maintained that seven agencies are considered as being compliant, while one other organisation has submitted Department of Health approval for the payment of a non-compliant allowance.

Mr O’Brien has argued that the HSE’s position is that it will consider any agency to be non-compliant if it has one or more employees whose pay does not conform to health policy.

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The HSE has embarked on a process of verification in relation to agencies which have said they are in compliance with pay policy but where there is a recorded deviation from the official policy.

The Government’s policy on pay states that bodies funded under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004 may not supplement approved rates of remuneration for staff either with exchequer funds or non-exchequer sources of income.

Mr O’Brien is expected has told the Committee that the focus of the HSE is on the governance of health service bodies which have acted or may have acted outside of their authority in inappropriately offering and subsequently paying amounts to senior staff which were neither sanctioned nor authorised.

He maintains that the people who have questions to answer are those who purported to authorise such payments rather than those who received them.

Separately, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said that the €195,000 salary he authorised in 2011 for a senior executive at St Vincent’s Hospital to move to a top HSE post in the West of Ireland was approved because the Department of Health had advised that this was commensurate with the individual’s remuneration package at the time.

The Irish Times reported last week that in late 2011, the Department of Health sought and secured approval from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to pay a salary of up to €195,000 to Bill Maher, the then acting chief executive of St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, to take over the running of the group of HSE-operated public hospitals in the west of Ireland.

At the time, the official pay rate for the chief executive post at St Vincent’s University Hospital was €145,959.

In reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Billy Kelleher of Fianna Fail on Tusday, Mr Howlin said following the identification of serious capacity issues in a number of hospitals in Galway and Limerick, Minister for Health James Reilly sought urgent approval from his department on December 2nd, 2011, to appoint two identified senior managers from within the health system to new roles as the group chief executives for the Galway/Roscommon and the Mid-West hospital groups.

“On 13 December 2011 my department sanctioned the appointment of two persons as group CEOs on the basis of temporary transfers. The post in the Mid-West Hospital Group was sanctioned at HSE National Director Level 2 level. For the Galway/Roscommon post the remuneration approved was on a personal to holder basis, which the Department of Health advised was commensurate with the existing remuneration package of the individual concerned.”

Mr Howlin said that following a further submission from Department of Health in October 2012, the rate for future appointments to hospital group chief executive posts was sanctioned in December 2012 at €145,959.

He said this rate had now been reduced in line with cuts applied to remuneration in the public service under financial emergency legislation which came into force last July.