St Vincent's still tight-lipped on top-ups
St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin last night again failed to provide details of individual top-up payments to three senior staff, despite severe criticism by the Public Accounts Committee earlier in the day of its lack of cooperation with the HSE's probe into public pay policy compliance.
In a letter sent to Committee Chair John McGuinness following yesterday's PAC meeting, St Vincent's Healthcare Group Chairman Noel Whelan said the group regarded itself as compliant with health sector pay pollcy 'based on our interpretation of same and legal advice received'.
"We will be happy to write to you further when this advice has been considered by our board. Let me assure you that we wish to cooperate fully with the PAC and with the HSE/Department of Health on this issue and all other related matters."
The St Vincent's Hospital Group has also said it will consider ending the practice of having some of its board members also serve on the board of its fundraising arm, the St Vincent's Foundation.
Mr Whelan said three senior executives at St Vincent's had contracts under which they received separate remuneration, which related to work carried out for the private interests of the hospital group, and was separate to their public sector commitments.
The extra money was fully-taxed, non-pensionable and sourced exclusively from income generated from St Vincent's Private Hospital, the letter stated.
Mr Whelan stressed there were no public sector or charitable funds involved in this remuneration.
The correspondence, however, did not give a breakdown of the amounts of each individual allowance or who was getting each allowance, and the rationale for paying the extra money.
The HSE says St Vincent's is not fully compliant with public pay policy in respect of top-up pay.
The letter states that St Vincent's reiterated to the HSE at a meeting on Wednesday its commitment to a process of engagement to address all matters discussed relating to pay policy.
A sum of €554,377 for remuneration of three hospital board directors was listed in St Vincent's accounts for 2011, which the hospital says was employment remuneration for the three senior staff referred to above who are also board directors. They did not receive directors' fees, the letter states.
The three staff are the hospital CEO, Nicholas Jermyn, and two senior consultants.
The hospital defended its policy of having some of its board members also serve on the board of its fundraising arm, the St Vincent's Foundation.
However, the letter stated that in light of issues raised recently about other fundraising organisations, 'we will give serious consideration to the composition of the board of the St Vincent's Foundation'.
The letter stated no member of the Foundation board received any payment for their role on the board or for other Foundation duties.
In a letter on Wednesday to the HSE, Mr Jermyn said there was one case at the hospital where senior staff pay was 'potentially non-compliant' and it had been agreed that it would be more appropriate to deal with this payment through 'established overtime arrangements'.
He said the hospital believed this proposal would be acceptable to the HSE.
Mr Jermyn told the HSE that St Vincent's interpretation of the public sector 'one person one salary' principle was that this related solely to public sector salaries, indicating that the hospital felt the policy does not preclude a health agency from topping up a salary from private sources.
At the PAC meeting yesterday afternoon, its Chair John McGuinness expressed anger at St Vincent's refusal to cooperate fully with the investigation into top-ups, and instructed the HSE to immediately contact the hospital for an explanation.
St Vincent's stance has also been criticised by Health Minister James Reilly, who has warned of serious consequnces for the hospital if it does not fully cooperate with the audit process.
The hospital has been threatened with financial penalties for non-cooperation.
[Posted: Fri 20/12/2013]