The doctor in charge of a struggling hospital emergency unit was handed a bonus of almost £12,000 while the number of patients waiting on trolleys there soared, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Dr Olivia Dornan is on a list of Northern Ireland consultants who were given a Clinical Excellence Award (CEA) in 2010/11, which shows that she received £11,828 even though Government targets have been consistently breached at Antrim Area Hospital’s A&E.
The Northern Health & Social Care Trust made the decision to award Dr Dornan for the work she did between April 2009 and March 2010.
However, Government figures show that 822 people waited longer than 12 hours in the unit she managed to be either treated or admitted to hospital during this period — a 100% rise from the year before.
Department of Health targets state that nobody should wait more than 12 hours for treatment in an A&E department.
In 2010/11 the number of people waiting for over 12 hours rose to 2,437, and in January of this year Health Minister Edwin Poots branded the waits at the hospital’s A&E “unacceptable” as 12-hour breaches continued to spiral out of control.
The trust has refused to say whether Dr Dornan received a CEA in 2011/12 and would not provide details on why she was deemed eligible for the payment, as such a disclosure is regarded as “personal information”.
Deputy chair of the Stormont health committee Jim Wells said he was horrified by the payment.
“It is outrageous that the trust will not give details of how they are spending money from the public purse. I certainly do not regard this as personal information.
“CEAs are supposed to go to doctors who are at the cutting edge of medicine. They are for excellence and the figures for waiting times would suggest she does not meet the criteria.”
CEAS are annual payments ranging between £2,000 and £60,000 to recognise and reward the exceptional personal contribution of consultants who show commitment to achieving the delivery of high quality care to patients. All awards are paid on top of a consultant’s basic salary for a period of five years and once they are awarded they become part of their terms and conditions.
It is understood that Dr Dornan earns in the region of £100,000 for her role as clinical director of emergency services in the Northern Health & Social Care Trust, but it is not known when she first received a CEA.
As the financial crisis facing the health service in Northern Ireland deepened, a decision was made to close the awards to new applicants in Northern Ireland. A UK-wide review of the system is being carried out.
Health Minister Mr Poots is yet to make a final decision on the matter.
In relation to the CEA given to Dr Dornan, a spokeswoman from the Northern Health & Social Care Trust said: “Applications were managed by the trust as per Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety guidance.
“A Clinical Excellence Award is awarded in recognition of a commitment to duty that is clearly above that expected as part of a consultant's normal job.”
She said that criteria includes delivering, managing or developing a high quality service and teaching, research and training.