Minister for Health Mary Harney has said that she cannot justify people in the Health Service Executive being paid when they are not doing their jobs, and said that situation cannot continue.

She was commenting on the industrial action by IMPACT members in the HSE, which has crippled financial administration in the organisation for the last three months.

The Minister said it was essential at a time when resources were finite and the taxpayer was providing those resources that they were accountable to the taxpayer and were able to measure how money was spent.

Ms Harney said it was impossible to run any organisation if you cannot do that.

Asked how she could justify 20,000 IMPACT members being paid for the last three months when they had not processed essential data, she said she could not justify that and it cannot continue.

She said she had full confidence in the management of the HSE to deal with the situation.

The Minister said that if people were not doing the job when taxpayers' finances were very constrained, then the HSE would have to ensure that money was not spent for work not done, adding that that was the least the taxpayer was entitled to expect from the public money they provide.

She said she did not want a situation in the autumn of this year where services to patients had to be curtailed because the HSE was not in a position to measure how money was being spent.

Ms Harney added that she would prefer if both sides could reach agreement but said obviously that had not been possible so far.

Accusation of intimidation

Earlier, IMPACT accused the Health Service Executive of attempting to intimidate members in the health service to abandon their industrial action instead of reaching an agreed solution to their dispute.

In a memo to members, the union blamed the breakdown of talks at the Labour Relations Commission on management's failure to engage constructively.

It said that as a result, IMPACT will continue its industrial action, which has paralysed financial administration in the organisation for three months.

It accused the HSE of fuelling speculation that it will react to the industrial action by taking disciplinary action IMPACT members who are following the IMPACT instruction not to provide financial and other information to management.

It described this as a clear attempt to intimidate individuals and groups of members into abandoning the industrial action instead of reaching an agreed solution to the issues that went to the LRC.

The memo says it is vital that all members show solidarity with their colleagues by supporting any members who are pressurised by the HSE.

It said they must ensure in particular that withheld information is not made available at this time.

At the LRC talks, IMPACT says it sought clarity on a number of issues, including how the Croke Park proposals would relate to protections in a 2004 agreement, which guaranteed job security until retirement to their members.

HSE sets up crisis team

Meanwhile, The Health Service Executive is setting up its National Crisis Management Team to deal with the administrative chaos caused by industrial action in the organisation.

IMPACT members have been refusing to collate or process data for three months, which management describes as critical.

As a result, the HSE has no idea whether its €14.3bn budget is being spent efficiently and it fears deficits may emerge later in the year, which will require drastic cuts in services.

The move comes after talks at the Labour Relations Commission broke down without agreement early this morning.

A spokesperson said that management was reflecting on the outcome of the LRC talks and that it remained their preference to find a resolution to the situation.

He said that based on those discussions, they felt a way forward could be found.

He said all that was required was a derogation by IMPACT on a very limited element of the union's industrial action, which the union has so far refused to give.

Because of the seriousness of the situation, the HSE is now in the process of convening the National Crisis Management Team.

It may also establish a contingency fund to pre-empt any potential deficits, although it is unclear how large it would be and whether it would be deducted from other sectors.

Depending on where those deductions were taken, activity in the health service could slow, with longer waiting lists for patients.

The HSE will also be communicating with staff nationwide to emphasise the urgency of the situation.

It will inform staff of the steps it may be necessary to take if the situation is not resolved, although the spokesperson would not elaborate on those steps.

The HSE's 'serious untoward incident' team has also been meeting in a further reflection of the critical nature of the issue.