SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has raised concerns around the administration of recognition payments to the independent health care sector.
The Department of Health has confirmed to Mr McGrath that they don’t hold records of money paid to individual healthcare staff, just the organisations involved. This has caused the delay in progressing the recognition scheme.
Mr McGrath is writing to the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee asking them to establish why records are not kept and, crucially, if not keeping such records could be open to abuse.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“While it is welcome that some of our hard-working independent healthcare workers are now beginning to receive their payment, it’s hardly surprising that the administration of this money has been beset by difficulties given how little information the department has around who is entitled to what. We have an obligation to monitor the spend of public money and in this instance I feel the process falls short.
“I was stunned to learn at the Assembly’s Health Committee that the department do not hold records on who was paid what for independent sector work. They know how much money was provided to individual companies in the sector but not how much each person received. This is going to make it extremely difficult to ensure the correct payment is going out to people, especially when it is pro-rata based on hours people have actually worked.
“The entire issue raises wider questions about the regulation within private healthcare companies. However, our healthcare staff should not be punished as a result of a lack of oversight from the Department of Health.
"We need to get these payments out to our dedicated healthcare staff who have endured so much during the pandemic as soon as possible, but I have serious concerns about the administration of finance in the department. I hope the Public Accounts Committee will be able to allay these fears and ensure me this process is not open to abuse.”