Tallaght denies 'parallel payroll' revived

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Tallaght Hospital has denied that it has reinstated a controversial 'parallel payroll' to fund top-up pay for senior staff it said it discontinued in 2010.

This follows the HSE's recent confirmation that the Dublin hospital was continuing to make extra payments to some senior staff and was not in compliance with public pay policy.

Meanwhile, the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street has refused to comment on why it recently stated it was fully compliant with public pay rules when the HSE subsequently said the hospital was not compliant.

Tallaght Hospital has strongly denied to irishhealth.com that it had reinstated a controversial parallel payment system for top-ups it said it had abandoned in 2010. These top-ups were revealed in the summer of 2012 in a HIQA report.

A review of the Tallaght extra payments controversy late last year could find no documentary evidence to explain the rationale or approval process behind the €700,000 in top-up pay from HSE funds provided to five senior staff between 2005 and 2010.

Tallaght Hospital said last year that it had discontinued the parallel payroll in 2010.

However, the HSE told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week that Tallaght was also included, along with Holles Street, in a newly drawn-up list of agencies that admitted to it they were non-compliant with pay policy, with no approvals for top-ups that deviated from this policy.

The HSE audit identified 13 allowances currently paid to senior staff at Tallaght from HSE funds, including a health insurance payment.

A hospital spokesman said the external payroll system ceased in January 2010 'and has not been reinstated in any form whatsoever'.

Asked to specify which of the allowances identified in the HSE audit as currently being paid were compliant and non-compliant with pay policy, the hospital would not give details. The spokesman said the hospital had responded with clarification to the HSE in relation to additional payments to staff.

"The hospital has provided full disclosure in relation to the circular on pay and continues to work with the HSE towards achieving compliance on the issue. No senior executives in Tallaght Hospital are in receipt of privately-funded top-up payments."

The spokesman added that none of the allowances listed by the HSE were payable to Tallaght's Chief Executive - either the previous CEO, who recently took up another post, or the current CEO.

Tallaght Hospital said last year that after the parallel payroll was scrapped in 2010, remaining contractual payments moved to the hospital payroll and that obligation amounted to €35,000 per annum.

Meanwhile, the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street has refused to comment on why it recently stated it was fully compliant with public pay rules when the HSE subsequently said the hospital had admitted to it that it was not compliant.

On November 21, in response to the controversy over additional payments to its Master Dr Rhona Mahony and other senior staff, Holles Street issued a public statement stressing that it remunerated its employees in accordance with their employment terms, with the agreement of hospital board committees 'and in full compliance with public service pay requirements'.

However, the HSE told the Dail Public Accounts Committee last Wednesday, six days after the hospital's statement, that Holles Street was one of a list of 13 agencies categorised as confirming their non-compliance with pay policy under the heading 'Non-compliant (confirmed in letter and issues identified in audit. No approval submitted for deviations in pay policy)'.

While top-ups to senior Holles Street staff from both HSE and non-HSE funds are identified in a recent HSE audit, particular attention has focused on top-ups paid to four senior staff, including Dr Mahony, from 'non-public funds'.

Dr Mahony has stressed that the €45,000 'top-up' reported as paid to her was in fact in respect of professional fees for private patients attending Holles Street.

However, the HSE, asked at the PAC last week about the privately-sourced top-ups at Holles Street, indicated that the information it received to date from the hospital did not indicate that the source of any of its extra payments to senior staff constituted private patient income.

It said all the top-up payments from private sources were described by the hospital as privately-funded allowances. Geraldine Smith, from the HSE's audit office, said the privately-funded sources of extra pay indicated by the hospital to date included rents, licence fees and other income, but the hospital had not mentioned private practice income.

Holles Street has said no funds raised for the hospital or its charitable foundation had been used for top-up payments.

Asked about the discrepancy between its statement and that of the HSE on its top-ups, Holles Street refused to comment, saying it had nothing to add to what it had already stated.

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