Patient care or fat paychecks for CEOs and administrators?

(May 9, 2013 - Richmond Hill, ON) Today SEIU Healthcare, Canada’s largest healthcare union, responded after Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) President Pat Campbell lashed out at an independent arbitrator over a fair and balanced award that included a modest increase for frontline staff in line with the cost of living.

In a statement, Ms. Campbell claimed: "awards like these reduce the incentive for broader public sector employers and unions to act responsibly during bargaining," referring to an independent arbitration process that resulted from the failure in 2009 of the OHA to reach a freely negotiated settlement with staff.

Ms. Campbell’s concern with fiscal responsibility is interesting considering that since the arbitration process first began, a drive for transparency and accountability by frontline staff has led to revelations that hospital CEOs billed taxpayers for perks like:

  • memberships in gentlemen's clubs;
  • cosmetic surgery;
  • life coaches;
  • the Jenny Craig weight loss program; and
  • lavish junkets abroad that included booze-soaked stays in Hong Kong

And as if these more than questionable expense claims were bad enough, executive compensation rose sharply over the same period.

Public disclosures for 2009 show:

  • Dan Carriere, CEO of Southlake hospital, got an 81% increase over the five years ending 2009.
  • Robert Bell, CEO of the University Health Network took home $830,948, a 24 per cent increase over a mere three years;
  • Robert Devitt, CEO of Toronto East General Hospital pocketed $460,852, enjoying a staggering 53 per cent increase in compensation over 5 years, disclosed on the same day the CEO shut the hospital's rehabilitation clinic saying there was no money in the budget.

But that didn't stop despite appeals by the Ontario government for a wage freeze.

The year after, in 2010:

  • Sunnybrook Hospital CEO Barry McLellan saw his compensation package jump by 18% over two years to $693,000.
  • Together, the executive team at Sunnybrook walked away with $3.2 million in one year alone - enough to pay for over 219,000 hours of patient care.
  • In Windsor, hospital CEO Warren Chant grabbed a 35% hike in his compensation, shortly before being fired for running a dysfunctional management operation.

"That the OHA has the audacity to lash out against modest investments in recruitment and retention of frontline staff shows just how out-of-touch hospital executives are," said Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare. "The people of Ontario would much rather see investments go to staffing the frontline than lining the pockets of overpaid administrators."

"The arbitration system is not broken, oversight of hospitals is," continued Stewart. "What we need is more transparency and accountability over money being spent on excessive administration and hospital executives' wages, benefits and performance packages when those funds could be better spent on frontline care."

If Ms. Campbell was really concerned about patient care she would encourage her CEOs to return the money they pocketed when thousands of Ontarians, including healthcare workers, were being laid off during the most recent recession.

SEIU Healthcare called on the province to get serious about making CEOs accountable, and called on the OHA to end its combative and confrontational stance towards the people who keep hospitals working, and pursue more collaborative and constructive engagement with stakeholders to improve quality and value for taxpayers and patients.

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