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Group of Mount Carmel nurses owed €60k in redundancy payments

The nurses might not receive the payments, as they are now considered to be unsecured creditors under the liquidation.

Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

A GROUP OF nurses who worked at Mount Carmel say they are owed thousands in redundancy payments, and don’t know if they will receive them.

The nurses are among a small group who were made redundant in 2012, before the hospital went into liquidation.

The hospital was owned by NAMA, but went into liquidation in January of this year.

The HSE announced on Sunday it purchased the hospital, at a cost of €11m.

“Owed €60k”

Mount Carmel Hospitals Closing Down Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Three of the nurses who were made redundant in 2012, who said they were among eight nurses in this situation, spoke to TheJournal.ie.

The nurses estimate that there is about €60,000 owed in redundancy payments between eight of them. The amounts vary – one is owed €11k, another €8,200, while another is owed €23k.

The nurses were offered three weeks’ redundancy in 2012, but went to the Labour Court with their unions and were subsequently given four weeks’ redundancy.

It is understood that Mount Carmel was not in a position to pay the full ex-gratia payment, so the Labour Court ruled that it should pay 50% of it in 2013 and the remaining 50% in January 2014.

But due to the 2014 liquidation, the second 50% was not paid.

Redundancy

Some nurses took voluntary redundancy. One nurse, Sinead O’Connor, told TheJournal.ie that she was among the nurses who had been selected for redundancy in 2012.

She said the nurses had been due their final payment on 17 January, and were told that the payments would be made through payroll at the end of that month.

The High Court appointed provisional liquidators for Mount Carmel on 24 January.

Contacting the liquidators

Mount Carmel Closing Down A sign in the window of Mount Carmel after the liquidation was announced. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The liquidator for Mount Carmel is Farrell, Grant and Sparks, and Duff & Phelps took over the insolvency part of this.

The nurses were advised to write to the liquidators about their situation.

None of the three nurses said they have received a written response, although some nurses have called into Mount Carmel to try and speak to the liquidators.

“It just feels like because we’re the frontline staff, nurses, they just totally ignored us,” said O’Connor.

“I was in complete shock”

The nurses were unhappy with how the redundancy was dealt with at the time. They were made redundant as they did not have midwifery skills and so could not be moved around the hospital easily.

Aileen McGarty was a nurse at Mount Carmel for almost 20 years and said that the way the redundancies were handled was “unfair”.

“I was in complete shock,” she said.

She is owed €23,000 in redundancy payments but has not received any of it.

She said that she wrote to the liquidators about her situation, but “they never even sent me a letter, email or phone call. It’s like as if we never existed.”

I’ve always loved work and loved nursing – it really made me think that you are only a number; no one cares about you. I always thought ‘I am really serving a purpose here’ – I learned a hard lesson.

However this hasn’t changed her approach to her nursing career:

I always put 100% into my job. I do love my job – I would never say I didn’t give it 100%.

A thid nurse, Eileen, took voluntary redundancy but on the same terms as the other nurses.

She said they “were just told we were unsecured [creditors] and if here is any money left over after sale it would be divvied up”.

She is owed €13k and said she has already “earmarked this money”.

It’s not a huge amount of money but it is to us.

She has written to Finance Minister Michael Noonan about the situation.

“It is a grave injustice,” she said. “This money was actually agreed to be given to us.”

She left voluntarily because she “figured the place was crumbling” and she wanted to leave.

O’Connor described the time of the redundancies as “a really bad time”.

I just feel like it’s dreadful. Nurses, I feel, are underpaid as it is. To be promised something and ignored… it just feels like we have fallen between two stools.

Liquidation and the Companies Act

Mount Carmel Closing Down Source: samboal

Under the rules that the Companies Act sets down, the ex-gratia redundancy payment isn’t a preferential claim in Mount Carmel’s liquidation – instead it’s ranked as an “unsecured claim”.

When the liquidation has concluded, creditors will be paid out of any remaining resources.

Preferential creditors are typically paid first, followed by unsecured creditors such as the nurses above. It is not known yet if the NAMA-owned hospital had enough finances to ensure that the full redundancy payments, or any redundancy payments, will be paid following liquidation.

Read: HSE buys Mount Carmel hospital, will turn it into ‘step down’ facility>

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