BHB bosses paid $2m in 2019
The Bermuda Hospitals Board's top five executives earned almost $2 million between them last year, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
The publicly funded board shared the six-figure salaries of those on its executive payroll in response to a public access to information request, after the Government asked it to drop a lawsuit aimed at keeping such information a secret. The disclosure shows that chief executive and president Venetta Symonds was the top earner, with total cash compensation of $506,147.
Chief of Staff Michael Richmond received $488,936, chief financial officer Bill Shields received $420,259, chief operating officer Scott Pearman received $304,496 and Chief of Nursing Judy Richardson received $221,956.
The board said it did benchmarking surveys in the United States, Canada and Britain and as far away as the Middle East and Australia to help calculate executive compensation, with Manhattan a particular data point.
A Forbes report last year found that 61 of the largest non-profit hospitals in the US paid their top executives between $1 million and $5 million a year.
An analysis by Crain's, a data information company in the US, found that the median salary for the CEO of a New York metropolitan area hospital or health system was more than $1.1 million in 2017.
In Britain, National Health Service guidance is that the median annual pay of the chief executive of a very large acute NHS trust should be about £225,000 ($283,000).
The release of the compensation information marks a U-turn for the BHB, which launched legal proceedings in the Supreme Court late last year against Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez, after she ordered the board to disclose compensation details for its executives in the interests of “accountability and transparency”.
The board got the commissioner's decision stayed after it applied for a judicial review last December. Ms Gutierrez contested the lawsuit.
Last month, before the civil case was heard, the BHB dropped the proceedings.
Board chairman William Madeiros said yesterday: “Bermuda Hospitals Board started sharing its individual CEO salary in 2016, along with the ranges for all bands of BHB staff.
“Getting it right on transparency is no easy matter and the balance of being publicly accountable, while respecting the employees in these positions, has been the consideration of multiple boards.
“The board had hoped a judicial review would assist in defining how a release of this information should be managed but we have stopped the process at the request of the Government and we now look forward to upcoming legislation to define how executive salaries should be released for all quangos going forward.”
He added: “As the judicial review has been stopped, BHB is required to release data before guiding legislation is finalised due to the deadlines set by prior Pati requests and the judgment from the Information Commissioner.
“As the country moves to greater transparency, we hope the national guidance will support an annual release of information regarding executive salaries that will be used to hold organisations to account.
“Executive positions in any hospital are highly pressured and demanding. We expect a very high performance from these individuals and they have delivered.
“They guided the hospital to achieve the highest level of accreditation last year and we remain grateful for all their continued hard work to ensure the delivery of safe, quality healthcare services as we have tried to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Supreme Court made an order on May 25, with the agreement of the board and the Information Commissioner, for the legal action to be discontinued, the stay to be lifted and the information to be released within 14 days.
Ms Gutierrez said: “I am pleased with the outcome. Bermudians and residents expect transparency and public accountability about public spending.
“The disclosure of ranges for the total cost of BHB executive team members fulfils these aims. The Pati Act's role in accountability for public spending is increasingly important in the current financial climate.
“The judicial review also affirms that when the Information Commissioner issues a decision, she will champion transparency on behalf of the public to see that information that should be disclosed is actually disclosed.”
The commissioner's decision in favour of disclosure was made in relation to a Pati request submitted to the BHB by The Royal Gazette more than four years ago.
The newspaper's January 2016 request for “details of the salaries and all other compensation” received by the board's executive team had been rejected.
Ms Gutierrez said in the decision that the BHB had to release information on the amounts paid to its executive team within $10,000 salary bands for the financial year 2015-16.
The commissioner wrote: “The commitment in the public sector, especially for those in executive positions, is to be accountable to the public, including for an individual's compensation.
“At times this accountability may generate criticism, both fair and unfair. But at the heart of this dynamic is the reality that the compensation for such executive officers comes from the public and those officers are accountable for managing the delivery of services to the public.”
The board has now shared the salary bands for its C-suite for 2015-16, when there were seven members of the executive team. That year, their combined compensation would have come to a maximum of $2.5 million.
That included 12 monthly payments of $35,000 to PricewaterhouseCoopers for the services of PwC's David Thompson, who was interim CFO.
The BHB has since reduced the team to five executives. It provided The Royal Gazette with the exact total compensation figures for each executive for 2016 to 2020, in response to a second Pati request.
The combined totals, based on actual payments made, were: $2 million in 2016-17, $1.8 million in 2017-18, $1.9 million in 2018-19 and $1.9 million in 2019-20.
The figure for 2016-17 includes $420,000 to PwC for Mr Thompson's services. Mr Shields was appointed CFO on April 1, 2017.
The Pati Act already requires the Government to publish an annual list setting out the title and salary range of every position of public officer.
How pay is calculated
The six-figure salaries of the BHB's most senior executives reflect the high cost of living here and the sums paid by overseas competitors, according to the head of the quango.
Board chairman William Madeiros shared information on how the board calculates the annual salaries for the five members of its executive team, whose total cash compensation ranges from $506,147 for the chief executive to $221,956 for the Chief of Nursing.
Mr Madeiros said: “There are no comparable hospitals in Bermuda to compare salaries and no legislative requirement for private healthcare providers to share their executive salaries.
“BHB is therefore a unique institution which gives the public no local benchmarks to review. People will rightly want to be assured about the process for setting executive compensation.”
He said the publicly funded board had an executive compensation programme approved by and managed through its executive compensation sub-committee and human resources and engagement committee.
The BHB also takes part in benchmarking surveys that include organisations in the United States, Canada and Britain and can reach as far as the Middle East and Australia.
Mr Madeiros said: “These surveys represent hospitals or organisations of similar size and complexity to BHB and ensure that data is reliable and market competitive.
“Our goal is to have salaries that attract and retain skilled and experienced staff, either locally or globally. Our pay levels will reflect the market, our peer group competitors and comparable hospital organisations.”
He added: “It is a challenge as BHB is a relatively unique institution — geographically isolated and the only hospital on island.
“BHB delivers more than a standard community hospital for that reason and includes psychiatric services, as well as acute medical and long-term care inpatient beds, as well as outpatient services.
“However, the hospital size, complexity, and location are key factors in setting appropriate compensation.”
The chairman said Bermuda's cost of living was one of the highest in the world so BHB looked to “comparable regions and areas” such as Manhattan to make comparisons.
He said: “Across all services, BHB has about 400 inpatient patient beds, which gives a size comparison to other hospitals.
“BHB specifically compares itself to hospitals of a similar size and complexity in comparable locations.
“We do not use the US average but do consider similar-sized hospitals. This is because the average hospital size in the US is under 150 beds, if you take the total number of beds and divide it by the total number of hospitals.
“Average hospital salaries for the US will therefore reflect that average and not be a useful comparator for the size and complexity of BHB.”
The compensation for legislated positions at the BHB — the CEO, chief financial officer, Chief of Staff and Chief of Psychiatry — require approval by the Minister of Health.
• To view the Bermuda Hospitals Board's C-level salary bands from 2016 to 2020, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”