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‘Lack of computerisation led to high overtime pay’

The hospital says it had made ‘a significant effort’ to control overtime. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The hospital says it had made ‘a significant effort’ to control overtime. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The lack of computerisation was partly to blame for the high amount of overtime clocked up in Mater Dei Hospital’s payroll department, the Health Ministry said yesterday.

Manual checking and computation of the variety of allowances and rosters takes time
- Ministry

The ministry was reacting to the situation highlighted by the National Audit Office in its yearly report on public finances, which found that a payroll officer at the hospital received more than €35,000 in overtime payments.

The ministry said this person’s work had been “reviewed”. “The amount was decreased, although not substantially due to an actual heavy workload,” a ministry spokesman said.

Three clerks at the payroll department racked up an average of more than €28,000 each in overtime, according to the NAO.

The ministry said Mater Dei had three officers and seven clerks catering for the salaries of more than 4,000 employees.

“Computerisation of this activity is under way but the complexities due to the wide variety of different salary and allowance arrangements in the different professions are making this implementation long and complex,” the spokesman said.

He said the “manual checking” and computation of the variety of allowances and rosters took time.

Hospital management had tried to put in place a mechanism where all employees punched in and out of work using an electronic system, the ministry said, blaming unions for repeatedly turning down the request.

Over the past two years, the hospital had made “a significant effort” to control overtime. This resulted in a significant decrease in overtime on previous years.

On another issue highlighted in the audit report, the ministry said the diving allowance mentioned was given to three nurses who worked at the hospital’s hyperbaric unit. They worked in “an environment higher than atmospheric pressure”.

The hyperbaric unit is a pressure chamber normally used to treat divers who suffer decompression sickness after surfacing rapidly from a dive.

The ministry said the unit was also used to deliver specialised treatment to diabetic patients and the set-up required that both patient and nurse spent time in it.

A spokesman said the conditions were similar to those experienced by divers, which was why it was called a diving allowance. It amounted to between €30 and €35 per month per nurse.

Asked about the 35-hour week radiographers worked, which prompted overtime claims for any hours done above the limit, the ministry said it was still investigating the matter.

The NAO noted that although the reduced working week had been justified by hospital management by referring to international guidelines, no copy of these was ever made available.

On the lack of attendance records for consultants, the ministry said “physical random checks” were conducted.

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