Health chiefs in Tayside have been urged to divert tens of thousands of pounds owed to a collapsed clinical waste firm to support unpaid workers at its Dundee plant.
NHS Tayside has outstanding invoices worth more than £22,000 with Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), the scandal-hit firm previously responsible for disposing of clinical waste from every medical facility in Scotland.
The health board paid out more than £240,000 to the company despite months of warnings of huge backlogs at its Dundee and North-Lanarkshire plants and a series of failures to adhere to basic incineration standards.
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said residents in Tayside should be told why the health board paid HES almost a quarter of a million pounds when failings with the clinical waste contract were coming to light.
“The Scottish Government became aware of the problems in August and boards should have been given proper advice,” she said.
“Whilst workers were left without pay over the festive period, NHS Tayside paid HES more than £60,000 despite the company leaving its own staff to turn to food banks.
“Scottish Labour has been calling for the payments to HES to stop and for some of that cash to go directly to the abandoned workers.
“Health boards have incurred extra costs as a result of the HES scandal and it will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to deal with the stockpiled waste.”
Ms Lennon called for “strong leadership and competence” from the Scottish Government and “a health secretary who will take command of the crisis and support NHS Tayside and other health boards”.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said payments made by NHS boards “relate to services provided prior to the company withdrawing its contracted service” and unless it formally enters insolvency, “it is the company that remains liable for unpaid wages”.
Stuart McSorley, who worked for the company for around 18 months, said: “We’ve heard the contracts will go to pay what’s owed but why not use the money from the NHS to do that now, if that’s what’s going to happen anyway?
“I’m more and more convinced nothing will come of it and we’ll basically be forced to chase up our own legal options to get the money we’re owed.”
As a result of contingency measures brought into effect when HES ceased trading, materials from GP surgeries, dentists and care homes are now routinely being transported to a number of NHS Tayside hospitals and facilities to await treatment.
A spokeswoman for the health board said: “NHS Tayside is bound by its contract with HES to settle its debts for invoices in respect of services properly provided in accordance with that contract.
“It cannot lawfully discharge those debts without payment and then pay those monies to another party without the consent of the company or its successors.”