News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 22nd November 2013

Half of Voluntary Hospitals and health agencies in Ireland breaching pay policy 

Says Minister Reilly

  

Figures show 24 of 44 bodies not compliant Department of Health rules on executive pay

Figures released this evening by the Minister for Health James Reilly said that 24 of the 44 voluntary hospitals and agencies ‘returned a status of non-compliance’

More than half of the country’s voluntary hospitals and health service agencies have said they are not compliant with Government pay policy in relation to the remuneration of their senior executives.Figures released this evening by the Minister for HealthJames Reilly said that 24 of the 44 voluntary hospitals and agencies “returned a status of non-compliance and 12 have categorised themselves as compliant”.He said 8 others had yet to indicate their status.

Dr Reilly said that at the end of September the HSE had written to each of the service providers concerned, providing them with the findings of an internal audit report into executive remuneration and copy of a pay policy issued by the Department of Health.

He said the HSE sought confirmation that remuneration arrangements in each of the voluntary hospitals and agencies were in full compliance with this policy.

He said the pay policy made clear that bodies funded under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004 “may not supplement approved rates of remuneration with either Exchequer funding or non-Exchequer sources of funding”.

“Of 44 organisations, 36 have provided the HSE with a reply. In 24 cases the organisation has returned a status of non-compliance and 12 have categorised themselves as compliant. Eight have yet to indicate their status.

“The HSE is in correspondence with the latter group of organisations in order to establish the position in each. In all other cases the HSE will examine in detail the responses received and address any issue arising with the organisations concerned.”

Dr Reilly said:“The HSE’s approach involves a robust process of verification and, as necessary, clarification of the position in each Section 38 organisation. Until such time as the situation in each organisation has been fully verified, none of these organisations can be deemed fully compliant.”

Voluntary hospitals and agencies can make a business case to the HSE to continue paying an unapproved allowance for executives. These business cases will be assessed by the HSE with the involvement of the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, as necessary.

A business case must also be made for the continued payment of allowances which are not encompassed by or in line with the Department of Health official pay scales but which may have been sanctioned in the past.

The Minister said that HSE director general Tony O’Brien, is due to appear before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday November 27th and that “this would allow for a detailed discussion and expansion on the work being undertaken”.

Dr Reilly said:“The Government is determined to ensure that public pay policy is respected and complied with across the health service and to that end I have also asked that the HSE Director General write to all Section 39 agencies to ensure that their remuneration arrangements reflect the Government’s public pay policy. I will be receiving regular updates from the HSE.”

The statement from the Minister did not identify the voluntary hospitals and agencies that had said they are not in compliance with pay policy.

World Bank ranks State’s tax system among EU’s most efficient

   

Ireland tax system is one of the most efficient in the EU for businesses, a joint report by consultants PwC and the World Bank has found.

Homeowners may raise an eyebrow given the recent controversy over paying the property tax, but businesses appear to be largely happy.

The State’s tax system ranks as one of the most effective in the EU for paying business taxes, with companies here spending 80 hours complying with the tax regime compared with 218 hours in Germany, the report concluded. The report covers 189 economies worldwide and looks at all taxes paid by businesses, using broad principles from PwC’s Total Tax Contribution Framework.

Feargal O’Rourke (pictured), tax chief at PwC Ireland, said Ireland’s tax system is an advantage for attracting investment.

“The survey demonstrates that, having simpler tax systems with competitive business tax rates and a robust and transparent tax regime, gives Ireland a real advantage in the market for attracting direct investment,” Mr O’Rourke said.

“The credit for this can be shared between legislators, Revenue and practitioners, who work collaboratively on a wide range of issues.”

According to the study, ‘Paying Taxes 2014 – The global picture’, a typical Irish company spends just over a quarter of its total commercial profit in taxes, spends two weeks dealing with its tax affairs and makes a tax payment nearly every six weeks. Key findings of the study include:

* Ireland is fourth in the EU for the length of time it takes businesses to pay their taxes.

* Irish businesses make nine tax payments, lower than the EU average of 13.1.

New penalties for hit-and-run drivers in Ireland

   Jail term of up to 10 years for fleeing scene but no increased time limit for blood tests

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has confirmed that motorists involved in hit-and-run incidents will face harsher criminal sanction.

Prison sentences will increase to a maximum of 10 years, up from six months, for leaving the scene, for what will be an indictable rather than summary offence. The financial penalty will increase from €2,000 currently to €5,000.

Mr Varadkar confirmed his support for the proposal introduced in the Dáil yesterday by Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Timmy Dooley in his Road Traffic Bill.

However, the Minister refused a second part of the Bill to give gardaí up to 24 hours after such an incident, rather than the current three-hour maximum, to test alleged offenders for drugs and alcohol. He said “the late taking of specimens is not scientifically valuable”.

Mr Dooley welcomed the Government’s acceptance of the increased sentence, which he described as a victory for constructive politics.

‘Shane’s law’
The provision will be included in an amendment to the Road Traffic Amendment (No 2) Bill. Mr Dooley expressed the hope it would ultimately become known as “Shane’s law” in memory of trainee barrister Shane O’Farrell from Co Monaghan (23) who was killed in a hit-and-run incident in 2011. The motorist, Zigimantis Gridzuiska (39), was given the option of eight months’ imprisonment or a return to his home country of Lithuania. He opted to return home.

Mr O’Farrell’s family has campaigned for changes to the law. Mr Dooley said “we will have done something for the family and the families of many other citizens who lost their lives in such tragic circumstances”.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said the O’Farrell family had been let down by the justice system as a number of hit-and-run incidents had occurred before their son’s death.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy warned there was no point in making good laws if there were insufficient resources to enforce them.

Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley said there were fewer than 333,000 roadside breath tests this year, compared with 470,000 for the same period last year.

A sperm test for infertile men could reduce need for surgery

    

Some men with very low sperm counts can father a child through fertility techniques

Scientists have developed a non-invasive test that can predict whether men with zero sperm counts are capable of fathering children through IVF.

Current methods rely on surgery to find out if a man has viable sperm that can be retrieved for fertility treatment.

The research, in Science Translational Medicine, suggests two biomarkers can identify who will benefit from surgery.

A UK fertility expert said the test, which will take at least a year to bring to the clinic, was “encouraging”.

Male infertility is responsible for about half of cases of infertility.

Men who produce no sperm can sometimes be helped to father a biological child through fertility treatment if they have normal sperm that can be extracted surgically.

Others will never be able to father a child naturally and need to use donor sperm.

The fact that two protein markers present in semen can be so well correlated with whether sperm are likely to be found is very encouraging indeed”

With current technology, the only way to find out if a man has viable sperm is to carry out surgery to look for sperm in the testes.

The new test, developed by scientists in Canada, has identified two biomarkers in sperm, which can be used to predict whether sperm retrieval will be successful.

Dr Keith Jarvi of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, said the holy grail of his research was to find a way to help men avoid unnecessary testicular biopsies.

He told BBC News: “The benefit of this is that we can predict without surgery whether or not a man has sperm or does not have sperm in the testicles.

“You could avoid unnecessary surgery for a number of these men.”

He said work was under way to adapt the test for use in fertility clinics.

“Optimistically, it would be a year away,” he added. “Pessimistically, two years – we’re moving along really quickly.”

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield and chairman of the British Fertility Society, said the diagnosis of male infertility was tricky and it was hard to determine whether a man was producing sperm or not.

The conventional method was to first examine semen under a microscope to see if sperm was there, he said.

If no sperm was seen, the next step was to take tissue from a man’s testicle and examine it with a microscope.

“Quite understandably, many men would rather not undergo this procedure if they didn’t have to,” said Dr Pacey.

“Therefore, having an accurate biochemical test which might help doctors advise men whether taking a piece of the testicle is worth doing or not, would be very useful.

“It could help men make better decisions, avoid unnecessary surgical procedures and potentially help save money by not having to do surgical procedures that aren’t needed.

“The fact that two protein markers present in semen can be so well correlated with whether sperm are likely to be found is very encouraging indeed.”

The number’s admitted for alcohol dependency in Ireland drops by 16%

 

Study shows 14,239 patients treated at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin in 2011

St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin showed that 14,239 patients were treated in 2011 — a drop of 16 per cent from the year before.

The number of people admitted to hospital for alcohol dependency has dropped over recent years, doctors have revealed.

Data from St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin showed that 14,239 patients were treated in 2011 — a drop of 16 per cent from the year before.

Professor Aiden McCormick said: “The surprising thing is that this reduction has not happened sooner.”

The decline follows an earlier reduction in emergency admissions in 2008. But it also comes on the back of a 335 per cent increase in admissions of patients with alcoholic liver disease between 1995 and 2010.

Despite the decline in patients with alcohol dependency issues, doctors from the Mater hospital in the capital revealed a shortage in detox services available.

Their study found that 80 per cent of doctors cannot access out-patient detox services for their patients and only 5 per cent were able to refer patients directly to psychological services.

They said the data suggested there had been an over-reliance on voluntary organisations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, for support to patients.

Dr Audrey Dillon, research registrar at the Mater hospital’s liver unit, said the difficulty in accessing psychological support contravened recommendations from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and other international groups.

“These services are necessary and would be considered the gold standard approach to the management of alcohol dependence,” Dr Dillon said.

“The overall cost implications of providing early access to the psychological therapy needed to modify behaviour would be outweighed by lower rates of alcohol-related harm, psychiatric problems, alcohol-related cancers and liver disease, and would ultimately lead to reduced alcohol-related health service costs.”

The research from St Vincent’s and the Mater will be presented today at the winter meeting of the Irish Society of Gastroenterology in Kerry.

Volcano causes new island to pop out of the sea near Japan

  

A brand new island has popped out of the sea near to Japan.

A volcanic eruption has formed a new island off the coast of Japan around 620 miles south of Tokyo.

Remarkable pictures show the new islet, which is about 200 metres (660 feet) in diameter, appearing in the water next to a small, uninhabited island chain known as Nishinoshima.

The 30-odd islands are 620 miles south of Tokyo and along with the rest of Japan are part of the seismically-active Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

Television pictures showed the creation of the island amid heavy smoke, ash and rocks exploding from the crater, and steam billowing into the sky.

The area regularly experiences earthquakes and eruptions but rarely as powerful as this one. The forming of the new island is the first such phenomenon for around 30 years.

Japan’s chief government spokesman welcomed the news of yet another bit, however tiny, of new territory.

“This has happened before and in some cases the islands disappeared,” Yoshihide Suga said when asked if the government was planning on naming the new island. “If it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory.”

The Japanese archipelago has thousands of islands. In some cases, they help anchor claims to wide expanses of ocean overlying potentially lucrative energy and mineral resources.

Japan has plans to build port facilities and transplant fast-growing coral fragments onto Okinotorishima, two rocky outcroppings even further south of Tokyo, to boost its claim in a territorial dispute with China.

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