Hospital board’s pay raise may flout law

Yukon Hospital Corporation board members have been paying themselves double their regular pay for the last six months, possibly in contravention of the Hospital Act.

Yukon Hospital Corporation board members have been paying themselves double their regular pay for the last six months, possibly in contravention of the Hospital Act.

The act allows board members to adjust their pay without approval from the government in the absence of an order-in-council.

But a cabinet order set the board’s pay in November 2009. Despite this, the board doubled its pay in late 2009 and has been paying the higher-than-normal rate since.

Hospital officials say they were allowed to increase the stipend.

The board doubled the chair’s rate to $600 a day from $300. It also added a monthly $2,000 stipend to the chair’s honorarium and another $300 a day if the chair spends time preparing for the meeting. The other board members received a $400 a day honorarium, up from $200.

The cost of the board’s honoraria grew to $85,000 in 2009 from $57,000 in 2008, according to the corporation’s most recent audit.

“For the last two years, the roles of the corporation has changed and the structure has change and it’s a new organization,” said Craig Tuton, the board’s chair. “The board recognized that to attract the right people to the board, and especially the chair, they had to have compensation that would meet the current job.”

On its face, the Hospital Act gives the impression the minister responsible must sign off on any pay increase. But the board can increase pay without government oversight as long as an order-in-council doesn’t exist, said Joe MacGillivray, the hospital corporation’s CEO.

“In the absence of the commissioner setting remuneration rates, the board has had that authority,” said MacGillivray.

But an order-in-council setting the lower pay grade has been in place since last November.

The chair shall be paid $300 a day and regular members shall receive $200 a day, says Order-in-Council 2009/208, signed by Commissioner Geraldine Van Bibber on November 12, 2009.

On Friday, the government released an order-in-council approving the doubled pay rate. That’s six months after board members gave themselves a raise.

“The Friday OIC would reflect a lot closer to what the board have set over a year ago,” said Tuton.

There are only two sections of the Hospital Act which refer to the rules on pay changes.

Section 5.7 states cabinet may set the pay received by board members.

MacGillivray said that “may” is a key word.

“It’s a may clause, not a shall clause. So in the absence of that, and we have not had that OIC in place until recently, the board on its own has the ability to do that.”

The board has been setting its pay in the absence of orders-in-council since the corporation was created in 1993, said MacGillivray.

“We’re not questioning that as soon as there is an OIC, that is the authority. But in the absence of the OIC, the board had the responsibility, they actually had the requirement to set the policies in place.”

MacGillivray, who had to go to a meeting, could not continue the interview. He was not able to address questions about the November 2009 order-in-council.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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