The questions are all related to the affairs of the Southern Health Board in one specific week. Let me first of all put the record straight in relation to the management changes. The changes made in the management structures in the Southern Health Board on Friday, 28 April 1989 were made by the chief executive officer in accordance with the Health Act. This is what transpired.
A letter issued by the Southern Health Board management on 24 April 1989 indicating that it was most likely that salary payments would be postponed for periods commencing with the first batch of payments due at the end of April 1989. Concern was expressed in Government at the implications of the issue of that letter for the Government's policy on the public finances and indeed on the stability of the system generally. I asked the secretary of my Department and two assistant secretaries with responsibility for financial and personnel matters to meet with the chief executive officer of the health board and to advise him of the Government's concern.
The CEO who had returned to Ireland from annual leave early on the morning of 28 April met with those officers of my Department in Cork Airport on that day. The CEO who is ill, and in fact has been for some time, indicated on being contacted that he would not be resuming duty as he had planned. He would be appointing a deputy and consulting with the chairman of the board as he is required to do under the Health Act, 1970, he appointed Mr. Seán Hurley, programme manager, as deputy chief executive officer as from 28 April 1989. I should make the point that Mr. Walsh's period as Deputy CEO ended with the return of the CEO.
In relation to the letter issued by the personnel officer of the Southern Health Board on 24 April I should make it clear that on being contacted, when I became aware of the issue of the letter, the Southern Health Board's finance officer indicated that the immediate financial situation did not require the postponement of the April salary payments.
I must repeat what I said in this House on the Adjournment debate of 25 April that the main culpability for what has transpired in the Southern Health Board rests with the board members who, unlike other boards, did not either adopt or propose viable alternatives to the course of action proposed to them by management to live within allocation. The fact that this happened and that management did not then submit a cash profile linked to an alternative realistic expenditure profile within budget contributed also to the board's short-term cash difficulties.
This was the subject of discussions with the then deputy chief executive officer and the finance officer on 18 April and arrangements were made for a senior officer of the Department to visit Cork on 27 ultimo to meet and discuss the requirements of that revised expenditure strategy. It was incidentally at that meeting that the need for a timing adjustment of £1.55 million in the original cash profile was identified and not at the meeting of the 28 April as inferred by Deputy Wyse's question.
The Deputy chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board, Mr. Seán Hurley, in consultation as appropriate with departmental officers is undertaking a comprehensive review of the implications of the Southern Health Board revenue allocation for health services in the area and when this review is completed he will be reporting his proposals for living within that allocation to the board. I will at this stage make only one further comment until that report has been received and considered and that is I have guaranteed, as has the deputy CEO, that the salaries of staff employed by the board will be met as they are due and on time to the end of this year.
There is no money available from which additional resource can be made available to the Southern Health Board. The resource made available to me was distributed in an equitable way to all agencies.
So far as Deputies' questions relate to the travelling arrangements for the meeting of 28 April 1989, circumstances combined to make travel by air the most suitable way of travel. There were no seats on the Cork commercial flight leaving Dublin Airport in mid-afternoon and so, with the approval of the Minister for Defence, a flight in the Beechcraft was arranged under the ministerial transport arrangements to fly the officers concerned to Cork. They returned to Dublin on an evening Aer Lingus commercial flight. The cost of the Army flight was £85. The aircraft was not diverted from other duties. Furthermore, there were particular circumstances of urgency in the situation, involving the illness of the CEO and the fact that there was a meeting of the Southern Health Board scheduled for Monday, 30 April. That meeting would have taken place in an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty had the meeting between my officials and the chief executive officer not taken place.
The question of holding a local inquiry under section 12 of the Health Act, 1970, raised by Deputy Quill would arise only if I contemplated removing the Southern Health Board from office.
So far as Deputy Spring's question is concerned, it is my practice to meet with the chairpersons and managements of boards as circumstances require and I will meet with the chairman and management when the deputy CEO's review is completed.
I am satisfied that the Southern Health Board's allocation for 1989 of £132.65 million is sufficient to ensure the delivery of essential health services and I appeal to the members of the board to co-operate fully with management in ensuring the effective delivery of essential health services in the area of their responsibility.