St Vincent's chairman says hospital compliant with health sector pay policy

Thursday 19 December 2013 23.20
St Vincent's Hospital said the top-up payments were sourced from private funds
St Vincent's Hospital said the top-up payments were sourced from private funds

Chairman of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness has said St Vincent's Hospital will appear before it in January.

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time, Mr McGuinness said St Vincent's board has agreed to come before the PAC and supply figures on controversial payments to a number of senior staff.

The chairman of St Vincent's Healthcare Group wrote to the PAC stating that it is compliant with health sector pay policy based on its interpretation of it and legal advice.

In his letter, Professor Noel Whelan said the group would be happy to provide this advice to the PAC when it has been considered by the board of the hospital.

Prof Whelan also stated it had informed the Health Service Executive in 2009 that three senior executives had contracts for which they were in receipt of separate remuneration.

He said this relates to work for the private interests of the group and is separate from the executives' public service commitments.

Prof Whelan said it is sourced exclusively from income generated from St Vincent's Private Hospital.

He said that no public or charitable funds are involved.

Prof Whelan said he wrote to HSE Director General Tony O'Brien yesterday stating its commitment to work constructively with the HSE on its compliance statement.

The letter came after the pay of senior staff at the hospital was discussed at the PAC.

Minister for Health James Reilly also warned the hospital this morning that there will be serious consequences if it does not comply with public pay policy.

The HSE has said it considers that just eight of 44 voluntary health agencies under examination are compliant.

It has given them a deadline of the end of January to come into line.

The PAC heard today that between them, the agencies get nearly €2.5 billion in public funds each year.

Secretary General of the Department of Health Ambrose McLoughlin told the PAC that there were no informal arrangements with agencies for top-up pay.

The HSE is auditing voluntary hospitals and disability organisations in receipt of public money on how much they have been paying senior staff in private allowances.

St Vincent's Hospital earlier said it was not appropriate to provide the details, as public funds were not involved in the payments.

Mr Reilly said it was very unfortunate that the hospital had refused to provide the details to the HSE.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Reilly said it was clear that people needed to be in compliance and part of compliance was cooperation.

He said: "I think it's very unfortunate. I think it's very clear that people need to be in compliance. Part of compliance is cooperating."

It follows the controversy over top-up payments to senior executives at the Central Remedial Clinic, which resulted in the board of the CRC resigning last week.

Mater chief executive discussing CRC arrangements

Mater Hospital Chief Executive Mary Day told the PAC that the hospital does not get paid to administer a pension scheme on behalf of the CRC.

Ms Day said that the Mater administered the scheme on behalf of around 180 staff members of the CRC, as part of the Voluntary Hospital Superannuation Scheme, due to historical reasons.

She said the €660,000 paid to the hospital by the CRC every year was the CRC employer's contribution to its staff pensions.

Ms Day said in return for these contributions, the Mater assumed the liability for the CRC staff members' pension payments when they fall due, thus relieving the CRC of future pension payments to its employees.

She insisted the Mater did not receive any payment for this service.

Ms Day said the scheme was administered at the direction of the Department of Health and with the full approval of the HSE.

Financial director at the hospital Caroline Pickett told the committee that the income received from the CRC by the Mater in relation to this scheme was booked in the year it was received and the money was ring-fenced for pensions.

The PAC intends to call former CRC chief executive Brian Conlan before it on 16 January.

The committee heard today that the amount of money paid to Section 38 agencies is much greater than that reported in the media and amounts to €2.1bn a year.

Earlier, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris said the PAC was still scratching the surface of Section 38 agencies and pay for senior staff.

He said the committee needs the resources to do this job and can not have some CEOs in hospitals sitting in their offices, hoping it goes away.

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