PAC chair wants health chiefs to resign

The Chairman of the Dail Public Accounts Committee has called on the heads of the HSE and Department of Health to resign.

Fianna Fail Deputy John McGuinness said hospitals were not being managed within their service level agreements and within budget.

"It's a business so on all of the major fronts you failed," he told a PAC meeting today. He suggested both Tony O'Brien and Ambrose McLoughlin should resign.

Mr McLoughlin, who is Secretary General of the Department of Health, said that recent spending reductions per capita in the Irish health service are the highest of any country in the OECD, with the exception of Greece.

The PAC was told the HSE's deficit could hit €500 million at the end of the year if further cutbacks are not made.

Earlier, the Secretary General clashed with Mr McGuinness when he refused to tell the PAC how much he had estimated the HSE needed in 2014 to provide services in the lead-in to spending being allocated by the Government in the run-up up to the Budget.

Questioned by Mr McGuinness, Mr McLoughlin said he was not in a position to give that information, and the question would have to be addressed to the Minister.

Mr McGuinness said Mr McLoughlin would have prepared some form of request on 2014 funding last year, following consultation with the HSE, which would have been delivered to Government. He claimed Mr McLoughlin was in a position to provide this information to the Committee but was refusing to do so.

HSE Director General Tony O'Brien said he did not have the information requested to hand but agreed to provide the relevant information to the PAC.

He said it should be recognised that the Government overall was working within public expenditure ceilings and did not have the discretion it would like to have on the allocation of budgets for any department or services.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy expressed concern to the PAC about regular budget overruns by the HSE.

Mr O'Brien told the Committee some senior staff in voluntary health agencies were asserting a contractual entitlement to top-up pay and these cases have to be worked through.

He was commenting on reports that due to legal and contractual difficulties, some senior HSE staff may be allowed keep their top-up payments.

Mr O'Brien said the fact that some senior staff were in receipt of an unauthorised payment was not of their own doing - he said the responsibility lay with the agency making the payment.

It has emerged that 58 of 143 staff at voluntary agencies faced with removal of extra allowances are at issue with the HSE over the matter.

Eight executives have availed of legal advice in resisting the removal of the top-ups. Mr O'Brien said the HSE had requested agencies to prove that there was an contractual obligation to continue the top-ups.

Committee member Kieran O'Donnell of Fine Gael was strongly critical of the fact that some executives may be allowed keep their top-ups at a time when elderly people were 'petrified' of medical card reviews.

HSE had surplus of €31 million last year

Some staff may keep top-ups

 

 

[Posted: Thu 12/06/2014]

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