Six years after the infamous Paul Collins retire/rehire shuffle, administrators at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital find themselves at the centre of another CEO controversy.
Coun. Linda Stevenson – the city’s representative on the board of governors – has tendered her resignation over allegations board chairman Melanie Taylor is attempting to circumvent a CEO salary cap imposed on STEGH and all hospitals in the province in order to make the position more “competitive.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to Stevenson, who would like the ministry of health to come in and review the practices of the board of governors.
Collins originally tendered his resignation back on June 30, 2010 only to be rehired on a one-year contract the very next day. That agreement was extended for an additional five years on October 21, 2011 and it expires this October.
The hospital established a succession planning committee in May of 2015 and has retained services of The MedFall Group to assist in the recruitment process. MedFall Group is a Canadian company that specializes in health care executive searches and management.
In a March interview with Taylor, we asked about the planning committee structure.
“We restricted it to board members due to the nature of what it is and the sensitivity and responsibility of the board members.” The hunt for a new president and CEO will be far-reaching, stressed Taylor.
Is Stevenson on that committee?
“I haven’t been allowed to be part of that discussion,” she said in an interview Friday. “There is a committee struck on that and I tried to get on it but was denied membership. I tried to find ways to provide my input and that didn’t happen.”
Collins’ salary in 2015 was $205,569 – ah, but don’t forget that pension – and in that same interview with Taylor, we questioned her on salary range for a successor.
“We are cognizant of the current legislation in place for executive salaries within Ontario and we also want to make sure that we are able to provide a salary that attracts a person who is able to achieve results,” said Taylor.
Under that legislation,executive compensation in the broader public sector has been restrained under the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010 since March 31, 2010 with all elements of compensation frozen, including base salary.
He added, “The existing freeze on salaries for executives under the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010 remains in effect until we establish compensation frameworks applicable to designated employers through regulation . . . or until a proclamation is made under the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010.”
By tendering her resignation, Stevenson is hopeful “the spotlight has been cast on them (board of governors)” and talks of circumventing the salary cap.
(I’m hoping) “they’ll walk away from the chair’s discussion with the board members around not being competitive enough and they need to up the salary and find ways to do that.
“Our direction back to her was to seek legal counsel because, for some of us, it would be breaking the law,” stressed Stevenson.
“It sounds like she has taken the advice and argues from legal counsel. I don’t think it should have even come as a suggestion from the chair. It’s her leadership driving the board.”
Stevenson believes Collins’ salary is competitive.
“He would probably be in the middle of the pack. A lot of smaller, rural hospitals would have a similar salary grid. The ministry has determined the salary cap and they are not to exceed that and not look for ways to exceed it.”
By comparison, Woodstock Hospital CEO Natasha Veljovic earned $249,696 in 2015; Chatham-Kent Health Alliance CEO Colin Patey earned $285,000; and Leamington District Memorial Hospital CEO Terry Shields earned $221,838 last year.
“I’m hoping the chair is not correct in her direction of trying to make it more competitive as she calls it,” advised Stevenson. “For me that is a non-issue. If there is a salary cap then there’s a cap. I don’t believe in the administrative lines being excessive. The money should be in front-line services.”
There are other issues, says Stevenson and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“There is legislation to make hospital boards more transparent and open, which I truly believe in. I’ve had enough trouble trying to get information as a board member. I hardly attended a meeting where I didn’t have a document I couldn’t access. There was always something I couldn’t access as a board member. Or I would receive it moments before the discussion.
“I will not be part of a process where there isn’t transparency. If they’re not going to be transparent I will not vote. I will not approve something that is not transparent. Ethically, I can’t do that.
“The dollars belong to the people, they don’t belong to the hospital board. They only manage them.”
We’ve argued in the past the STEGH board of governors is akin to a county club.
“I don’t think the board was happy to have me there,” Stevenson admitted. “Anytime I would bring up an item of discussion it was quite often frowned upon. I’m hoping the minister of health does a review of the board practices. I have lots of things that need to be looked at.
“If They don’t like the fact we are appointed by the city then the board needs to get on with a different process. Ask them the last time they sent a notice out in the paper looking for community members (to sit on the board of governors). They don’t do that. They don’t follow their own policy. They don’t always get the people they desire.”
From past experience, finding a member of city council to assume Stevenson’s role on the board will not be easy.
“That will be up to council. My letter of resignation went in last week. It took us almost a year to find me to do it. Nobody wanted to be on it. We’re not used to this practice.”
We were denied an interview Friday with Taylor. Instead this corner received the following email from STEGH spokesperson Nancy Lawrence.
“Given that the board is in the process of actively recruiting and negotiating, the selection committee has been advised that disclosing salary related information would not be prudent at this time.
Our request for an interview with Taylor was to address more than CEO compensation.
Same old same old.
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