Hospital CEO benefits to be made public

New details about how much Ontario hospital CEOs earn in severance, retirement and other forms of compensation will be released Tuesday.

Details will go beyond salary information in province's sunshine list

Just how much a hospital CEO would be paid for being fired or what type of retirement deals executives negotiated will be made public for the first time Tuesday under Ontario's freedom of information law.

Hospitals became subject to the law Jan. 1, so the Ontario Hospital Association advised its members to release executive contracts — along with board minutes, financial plans and other documents — by posting them on their websites.

"When universities became subject to [freedom of information], one of the first things people wanted to see was executive contracts, so we know from that experience that it's something that needs to be readily available," said OHA President and CEO Tom Closson.

"Rather than waiting for requests to come in one at a time or hospital by hospital — we have 150 hospitals in Ontario — we thought it would make the most sense to proactively disclose these contracts."

Would go beyond sunshine law

Those in the public sector paid more than $100,000 a year already have their salaries disclosed on the so-called sunshine list, but there are plenty of details in the contracts that haven't been made public.

"What's in the person's contract in terms of any post-retirement kind of arrangements or anything that wouldn't show up in the sunshine law, even what the clause would be if the person was fired without cause, what compensation they would get for that," said Closson.

The Liberals included a line in last spring's provincial budget that gave hospitals an exemption from the FOI law for data on so-called quality of care in hospitals, which the Ontario Health Coalition warned would allow hospitals to hide embarrassing information.

But Closson said doctors, nurses and hospital staff need to be able to speak freely about situations without worrying that what they said before a committee would be made public.

"There is some sense that if people feel if there are minutes or charts, analysis of things that they're involved in, that it may come back on them from a liability perspective," he said.

NDP wants salaries capped

The New Democrats have been railing for years about the high salaries paid to hospital CEOs. They want such salaries capped at $418,000 a year, or double the premier's salary.

Some hospital CEOs in Ontario are paid between $600,000 and $700,000 in salary and benefits, but a report prepared by former deputy prime minister John Manley found three-quarters of hospital CEOs make below the NDP's proposed cap.

A province facing a $16-billion deficit that wants to trim health care spending increases to three per cent a year from more than double that figure needs hospital administrators that can help make an already efficient system even better, said Closson.

"The compensation cap that's proposed by the NDP is quite arbitrary and is based on politics rather than on trying to attract and retain effective leaders," he said.

"This would be totally the wrong time to be capping CEO salaries."

Ultimately, the OHA hopes being subject to freedom of information will improve public confidence in their hospitals by making them more transparent and accountable.

"We have a very efficient hospital system in Ontario — government funding of hospitals is 20 per cent less than it is in the rest of Canada," said Closson.

"But at the heart of it, it's more than just running your hospitals efficiently. You have to make the public understand that they're actually getting good performance out of their hospitals."