HSE director general Tony O’Brien has given a clean bill of health to Limerick charities funded by the executive.
In a week when charities and institutions such as Rehab and the Central Remedial Clinic are engulfed in controversy around executive pay and the destination of charitable donations, Mr O’Brien said the three Section 38 agencies in Limerick are facing “no issues of significant concern”.
Section 38 agencies are independently managed but publicly funded healthcare providers including voluntary hospitals like St John’s Hospital and disability service providers such as The Brothers of Charity and The Daughters of Charity.
Speaking at St Camillus’ Hospital this Wednesday, Mr O’Brien said “in terms of the Section 38 agencies that we are working with in this area, there aren’t specific significant concerns”.
“Looking at it nationally, away from this region, there has clearly been significant issues around the governance of a small number of organisations as regards their compliance with public pay and their use of fundraised funds, if I can put it that way.”
He hoped that the ongoing efforts of the HSE and the Public Accounts Committee, coupled with the government’s commitment to introduce a regulatory regime for charities, would see public confidence in making donations restored.
Bernard Gloster, area manager for non-acute services in the Mid-West, indicated there were some “minor” compliance issues relating to salary scales at the disability service providers. He described these as “legacy issues” that were being dealt with to bring them into full compliance. And these salary issues related to their national organisations rather than the Limerick sites.
He emphasised there was no evidence that any funds being raised by HSE-funded charities in Limerick were not being appropriately used.
“The HSE nationally conducted an audit of all Section 38 agencies,” Mr Gloster explained.
“The three Section 38 agencies operating in the Mid-West all confirmed compliance but indicated some small variations in some cases which are entirely to do with legacy issues.
“We are very satisfied based on the information we have received to date that there is a very reasonable basis on which to assume they will reach absolute and full compliance very quickly. They are dealing with those issues right now. We have met with them; we are in correspondence with them and there is a period of time in which a lot of Section 38 agencies have to deal with minor issues of difference from what the formal HSE and public service scales might be.
“That of itself is not unusual but it is really important to distinguish that from what has been the focus of public attention over the last two weeks, which is around the pathway in which charitable donations go and around compliance with salary scales. They are very different issues to what we are dealing with here.”
“There is no assertion whatsoever in relation to charitable donations in respect of any of those agencies that has been brought to our attention,” Mr Gloster stressed.
Mr O’Brien said that while the HSE’s efforts to secure compliance across the sector was ongoing there were “no issues of significant concern in this region”.
It was “premature” to say how much of an impact a drop in charitable donations from the public - arising from the controversy at the CRC - would have on the HSE although Mr O’Brien acknowledged there was “clearly some risk”.
“But I believe that this will pass and it will pass by virtue of the very determined action to restore the credibility of the agencies involved and to create a regulatory environment that by force of active regulation means that funds are properly used and charities are properly regulated.
“I know that the government is committed to doing that. And that will help all sectors including the health sector,” said Mr O’Brien.