CHUM spends $44K on holiday party for management

Montreal’s French-language superhospital, the CHUM, is defending its decision to throw management a swanky year-end party that ran a total tally of about $44,000.

The French superhospital's party on Dec. 21 included $50 bottles of wine, alcohol bill totalling about $8K

The CHUM administration says the lavish party was justified because management worked many long hours during the historic move to the new superhospital last fall. (Radio-Canada)

Montreal's French-language superhospital, the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), is defending its decision to throw management a swanky year-end party that ran a total tally of about $44,000.

The party, held on Dec. 21, 2017 at the downtown Mount Stephen Hotel, was a way to thank senior managers for all their hard work to carry out the recent move to the new facility.

"It was an exceptional evening because we had an exceptional year," CHUM spokesperson Irène Marcheterre told Radio-Canada.

In November, the CHUM completed moving and merging three of its hospitals under one roof at a brand new site in downtown Montreal.

Alcohol bill totals $8,300

The party had 312 CHUM managers and directors in attendance.

The total bill, which Radio-Canada obtained via an access to information request, was $44,236.

That tally included alcohol: 62 bottles of red wine, which cost $50 plus tax, and 76 bottles of white while, also at $50 each, totalled $7,935. Once 49 beers were added, the alcohol bill came to about $8,300.

The CHUM spent about $68 per guest for the food, totalling $21,254. Finally, it cost $2,900 to hire the company to provide the music and entertainment for the evening.

"Some managers worked more than 20 hours, even 30 hours more per week during the move. So this party was a way to thank them for their time and commitment," Marcheterre said.

As for the $8,300 alcohol bill, it was an exception that was justified, the CHUM says.

"Normally, no alcohol is ever paid for. But in the context of this event, which was to recognize people's contributions, I think it was appropriate to do it," Marcheterre said.

Last fall, Saint-Luc, Hôtel-Dieu and Notre-Dame hospitals were moved from their independent buildings to the new French superhospital in downtown Montreal. It was one of the biggest moves in history for Quebec's health care network.

Workers unions furious

Unions representing health care workers say throwing an extravagant party for management shows how out of touch the hospital is with the circumstances of its workforce.

"This is indecent, given the recent budget cuts we went through," said Nathalie Chalifoux of the APTS union, which represents CHUM health care workers.

Chalifoux says such expenses spent on management don't go over well while front-line workers are dealing with heavy workloads.

Chalifoux said that while managers did work hard during the move and launch of the new superhospital, "there are other ways to thank employees besides offering them alcohol and gastronomic meals."

Jeff Begley, president of the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS), which represents 110,000 health workers in Quebec, said the expensive party shows a lack of judgment on the part of administrators.

Begley added that most of the managers invited to the party could have easily afforded to pay the $140 price of the ticket.

"It would have been a real gift for someone like an orderly, who worked just as hard as a manager," Begley said.

The CHUM specifies that any unionized employee who works overtime is paid.

"Unionized employees can bill their overtime hours, and they are paid for that. That is not the case for managers," said Marcheterre. She said there will not be such a big party at the end of 2018.

Translated from a report by Radio-Canada's Davide Gentile