Public decries more exec pay in weak economy

It can be hard to argue offering generous hospital executive pay while the rest of the country is witnessing post-recession challenges, reduced reimbursements and staffing strains. That hasn't stopped some healthcare institutions from continuing to offer hefty compensations to hospital heads, though.

For instance, after a previous salary freeze, board members at El Camino Hospital in California last week approved increases of up to 4.5 percent for the hospital's top nine executives, the Los Altos Town Crier reports.

Because of reduced patient volume and lower revenues, the hospital board was forced to freeze salaries in July 2010 for some employees (non-SEIU workers).* Then in September, the hospital avoided laying off 140 employees only by offering voluntary retirements and reorganizations. In April 2011, the hospital lifted the salary freeze and offered salary increases for nurses and non-contractual staff, according to Judy Twitchell, manager of community relations and El Camino Hospital spokesperson.*

This month's executive pay bumps of between 2.5 and 4.5 percent, mean total salaries will range from $196,560 to $442,031, including annual bonuses, according to the Town Crier.

At Mercy Health in Michigan, union workers yesterday protested hospital CEO and President Roger Spoelman's "million-dollar salary." Surrounding the hospital system's consolidation, workers are rallying against the executive's compensation amid their increases in health benefit costs, the Muskegon Chronicle reports. An IRS report revealed Spoelman's actual total compensation in 2010 to be more than $1 million ($1,012,017), according to the Chronicle.

Dr. Linda Brady, meanwhile, President of Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in New York, also is under attack for receiving $4 million in total compensation in 2009, more than any other nonprofit healthcare executive in the state, according to the New York Daily News. The healthy paycheck also came during a year of layoffs, furloughs, and pension cuts, according to an angry physician at the hospital.

Additionally, the Hoboken (N.J.) University Hospital CEO Spiros Hatiras received a $600,000 payout upon resigning, weeks before the hospital filed for bankruptcy. The generous payment came in the wake of the hospitals' $1.9 million debt to the city and the $1.45 million it owes in employees' pensions and health benefits, according to the Star-Ledger.

For more:
- read the Los Altos Town Crier article
- read the Muskegon Chronicle article
- check out the New York Daily News article

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*This story was amended on Sept. 23 for clarity.