One for you, two for me

Or should it be one less for you, big bonus for me. It beggars belief that a time when frontline medical staff and services are being battered consistently by reduced budgets, the CEO of the Health Service Executive would be paid a handsome €70,000 bonus. While Professor Brendan Drumm hasn’t actually drawn down the lucrative bonus, nor has he sanctioned it himself, it has been approved by the board of the HSE and Health Minister Mary Harney.

Such double standards within a sector which has been threatened with more bed closures, slashed hospital budgets and pay cuts is despicable. When the frontline workers, who go beyond the call of duty and face adversity every day, see the top man being awarded such hefty bonuses at a time when the service itself is crying out for funds, they realise that it shows nothing but contempt towards them.

The bonus relates to the year 2007 when the health service was shaken by scandals, cancer misdiagnoses and deaths due to long waiting lists. Not Prof Drumm’s doing, but still he was at the helm.

This controversy does not reflect on Professor Drumm’s performance per say, rather it’s the timing of such a payment when nurses, midwives, paramedics and other frontline staff are so unsure of what the future holds for them. Prof Drumm took up the position of HSE chief in 2005 in an effort to overhaul the service, but the economic downturn saw money being swiped from the service, and just made a bad service worse. This isn’t the fault of the workers, but is the job of Prof Drumm to clean up.

The Irish Nurses Organisation claim the bonus, which is twice the average industrial wage, would have paid the wages of two full time nurses. This is on top of a €320,000 salary at a time when 300 patients are lying on trolleys around the country.

Ireland’s health service is far from perfect. In fact you couldn’t even call it a good service. While that’s not the chief’s fault and these are problems he inherited and has made some inroads in solving, especially when it comes to community services, bonus payments to top HSE personnel are a hard pill to swallow for the thousands of hard working and dedicated staff who have been re-deployed, have had their pay and allowances reduced, and have been denied bonuses of their own. Directors of nursing and other grades of staff have been denied bonuses. But it seems the CEO will still have his bonus, due to claims that efficiencies and increased services have been delivered despite the recession. What must be remembered is that it wasn’t Prof Drumm who was at the frontline delivering these services.

INO general secretary Liam Doran has spoken out about the double standards which have become norm in Irish society. It smacks of senior management protecting their interests while imposing cuts on their staff.

Week in, week out we are rocked by more scandals, more double standards and the public are weary and worn out trying to keep their hard earned shillings in their own pockets while the Top Dogs keep getting richer. Enough’s enough.


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