Yukon Hospital Corporation officials are not talking about a pay raise the board gave itself in possible breach of government orders.
On its own initiative, the board gave its chair a tenfold increase in pay and doubled members’ pay late last year. That’s in contravention of an order from cabinet dated November 2009 that set board members’ pay rates far lower.
The lower pay was supposed to be in effect until June 11, when cabinet authorized a pay increase for the board.
However, for the last seven months, the board chair has received 10 times more than government allowed. Board members received more than twice as much.
The possible breach of the Yukon Hospital Act – and government orders-in-council – was revealed during interviews with the board’s chair Craig Tuton and the corporation’s CEO Joe MacGillivray earlier this week.
So far, Tuton has not responded to a message on his cellphone, and MacGillivray has not returned a request for another interview.
Minister Glenn Hart, who is responsible for the hospital corporation, was not available for comment either, said cabinet spokesperson Emily Younker.
MacGillivray did issue a letter to the editor to the News that fails to mention the possible contravention of government orders.
The pay raise was justified because the corporation has taken the construction of the Dawson City and Watson Lake hospitals under its wing, says the letter (see page 10).
The corporation is also spending tens of thousands of dollars in a marketing campaign to quell any bad press from the massive undertaking, which includes taking on $67 million in debt.
This month’s cabinet-approved pay raise takes Tuton’s rate to $600 a day from $300. He will also be given $300 to prepare for a meeting. And will be paid a $2,000-a-month stipend. The board usually meets 12 times a year, which means Tuton will be paid $34,800 a year, plus travel expenses, to serve on the board.
Other board members now earn $400 a day, up from $200 a day. They also receive a $200 preparation fee.
The opposition believes both the pay raise and the way it was administered must be clarified.
“The minister owes the public an explanation,” said Arthur Mitchell, Liberal party leader.
“The answers provided so far appear pretty weak to me. Basically, what they’re saying is that the board may issue themselves a raise in the absence of an OIC. But there was an existing OIC.”
Tuton, who has worked on campaigns for the Yukon Conservative Party and the Yukon Party for 30 years, gets special treatment by his friends who appointed him, said Mitchell.
“There seems to be two standards: one for all the boards that don’t have Mr. Tuton sitting on them and one for boards that do,” he said.
Mitchell recalled a similar situation when Tuton was still sitting on the board of the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board. The board, at the time shrunk from six people to four and Tuton, as chair, decided not to hire new board members. He then spread the unused salaries to the remaining board members.
“That’s not an efficient way of doing business,” said Mitchell.
“So now he leaves that board and concentrates on the hospital board, and his pay increases again.”
New Democrat Leader Elizabeth Hanson believes the pay raise and the new hospitals are signs the hospital corporation doesn’t have enough oversight.
“We’ve got an organization that seems to be going rogue,” she said.
The Dawson City and Watson Lake hospitals are a major investment for towns that might require smaller health infrastructure, and the government has not provided much in the form of reports or studies to justify their construction. Tack on the pay raise, and it looks as if the corporation is out of control, she said.
“It raises huge questions about the competence and the planning with respect to health care,” she said.
Mitchell wants to remind Tuton and his fellow board members that their remunerations are not meant to be full-time working wages.
“These are honoraria,” he said.
The hospital already has a CEO who is paid a full wage for being a professional manager of the corporation.
“The role of the board is an oversight role and a policy-making role, and I’m not convinced these are supposed to be full-time jobs.”
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