Limerick hospital staff boycott manager in bitter pay row

Mike Dwane


Mike Dwane

HSE director general Tony O'Brien said an 'agency solution' had been sought after unsuccessful efforts to fill post
A ROW over executive pay means that hundreds of administrative staff across the UL Hospitals Group will effectively boycott the group’s interim chief operations officer.

A ROW over executive pay means that hundreds of administrative staff across the UL Hospitals Group will effectively boycott the group’s interim chief operations officer.

Over 90% of members balloted by the trade union IMPACT have voted in favour of industrial action over the appointment of Liam Casey through his own management consulting firm Starline.

The action will see up to 500 staff at the six hospitals - UHL Dooradoyle, the Maternity, Croom, St John’s Ennis and Nenagh - refuse to report to Mr Casey.

And the ballot comes as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has requested HSE director general Tony O’Brien to investigate the €250,000 salary paid to Mr Casey through Starline.

Mr Casey has in recent days declined to comment on the matter.

IMPACT says staff view the arrangement as a way of getting around public sector salary caps at a time when ordinary staff are being hammered by increased taxes and public service levies.

But the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has commented that individuals brought in to work for public bodies on consultancy contracts are not subject to the public pay limits.

IMPACT assistant secretary general Andy Pike commented: “This industrial action is designed to highlight the opposition of hospital staff to the excessive and unwarranted salary payments to a senior manager through a management consultancy. It is not envisaged that the action would affect the delivery of services in any way.

“The HSE director general has said the mid-west hospital group needs additional administration staff to provide vital services to patients. The money spent employing just one management consultant would cover the costs of at least five clerical staff to help the hospitals cope with increasing demands. In these circumstances, staff very much resent reporting to a senior manager who is being paid at least twice the correct rate for the job,” he said.

IMPACT has also welcomed the intervention of the PAC in seeking answers.

The HSE previously told the Leader that the position in question was a “critical role” that had been advertised “on a number of occasions” but could not be filled.

“The current arrangement is an interim solution while the hospital seeks to make an appointment,” a spokesperson said.

“UL Hospitals is re-advertising the position in the coming weeks.”

And Mr O’Brien reiterated these points during his appearance before the PAC.

“His (Mr Casey’s) post proved impossible to fill for a variety of reasons, as sometimes occurs. Consequently, on an interim basis, pending the rerunning of the competition, we used an agency-based approach. In other words, we brought in someone from an agency to fill the role,” Mr O’Brien said.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere of uncertainty at UL Hospitals Group is being added to by the pending departure of CEO Ann Doherty.

She was appointed to lead the reform of acute hospital services in the region two years ago but has recently been recommended by the Public Appointments Service to be the new CEO of Cork City Council. She would be the first woman ever to hold that position.

But that appointment has been held up after councillors in Cork took the unusual step of seeking to meet Ms Doherty in person on her plans for Cork before ratifying the appointment.

Such appointments are typically waved through by elected representatives.

The decision to defer the appointment was made unanimously, with Cllr Terry Shannon, Fianna Fail, telling Monday’s council meeting that while “I have nothing personal against the candidate in question”, he wanted to explore Ms Doherty’s vision for the city.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan paid tribute to Ms Doherty for her work at the UL Hospitals Group.