Minister's expert to get nearly €½m
Health Minister James Reilly's recently appointed expert for his Special Delivery Unit, Lis Nixon, is to be hired on a three-year contract at a total cost of €492,000.
This means that the two UK experts recently hired to work for the unit, which is tasked with reducing treatment and emergency department waits, are costing the State nearly €1 million over a three-year period.
And the Department of Health is also planning to hire a further consultant to the SDU to work on reducing outpatient waiting lists, irishhealth.com has learned.
irishhealth.com revealed yesterday that the Department had recently hired leading health service change management consultant Lis Nixon to work as Director of Unscheduled Care at a salary of €164,000 per annum.
The news of this expenditure by Dr Reilly on another expert has led to strong criticism from Fianna Fail and other sources.
Both Ms Nixon, and the other outside expert working for the unit, Martin Connor, will earn a total of €972,000 over the next three years.
And it has emerged that earlier this year, the Department advertised for a further external consultancy to work with the SDU on improving scheduled care and outpatient booking in hospitals around the country. A spokesman for the Minister said this consultancy had not yet been filled.
Outlining the background to Ms Nixon's appointment, the spokesman said last autumn, the posts of Director of Scheduled Care and Director of Unscheduled Care were advertised by the Department.
Scheduled care refers generally to planned operations whereas unscheduled care refers to emergency treatment services.
The scheduled care post was filled by Dr Alan Smith, who formerly worked for the National Cancer Screening Service. However, according to the spokesman, the Department was not able to find a suitable candidate for the unscheduled care post.
It was therefore decided to tender for a consultancy to fill the unscheduled care role, and following the tender process, Lis Nixon was appointed to this post.
The spokesman said Ms Nixon was a 'perfect fit' for the post, having played a key role in reducing emergency department waiting times in the UK.
Dr Connor, who is Senior Adviser to the SDU, is being paid €160,000 per annum for a three year contract from this year, and he was also paid for his work with the SDU last year. He spends some of his time working at Stanford University in the US, although Ms Nixon is full-time in her post.
While Minister Reilly has stressed that effecting lasting improvements the waiting list and ED trolley wait situation would take some time, the SDU has had limited success in making improvements in these areas since its establishment last summer.
The Ministerial spokesman stressed that rather than hiring permanent staff at long-term cost to the taxpayer, the emphasis in hiring consultant experts to tackle scheduled and unscheduled care problems was for them to perform specific tasks within the allotted time of their contracts.
Meanwhile, €15 million was recently taken from the budget of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), which is working with the SDU on waiting lists, to pay for an initiative for intermediate care treatment facilities for older people.
These facilities are designed to provide rehab, physiotherapy and other services after patients have finished their treatment in acute care, following which they will be discharged home or placed in long-term care.
An additional €13 million for this initiative is being taken from the budget for long-stay care under the Fair Deal scheme.
The money takden out of the intermediate care plan means the total NTPF budget available this year to the SDU for tackling acute hospital access problems has been reduced to €70 million from the €85 million originally allocated.
Asked if taking €15 million from the NTPF funding currently at the disposal of the SDU would affect its waiting list initiative, the Minister's spokesman said the intermediate care plan was designed to take pressure off acute beds and therefore assist in the reduction of acute hospital waiting times.
[Posted: Thu 19/04/2012]