Health boss Duckett collects $149,000 in benefits
Critics cry foul amid declining care in Alberta
By Jason Fekete, Calgary Herald July 9, 2010
Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett collected $744,000 in total compensation last fiscal year -- including $149,000 in bonuses and other benefits -- during a year some wait lists grew and the superboard ran an $885-million deficit.
The release Thursday of AHS's financial statements for the 2009-10 fiscal year reveals about a dozen vice-presidents and other senior executives also received annual compensation each in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Health organizations and opposition parties said the bonuses paid to Duckett and his senior brass are exorbitant for an organization that can't balance its books and hasn't seen improvement on certain wait times and surgery queues.
Duckett was paid $595,000 in base salary, as well as $139,000 in other cash benefits (including bonuses, overtime and vacation payouts), and $10,000 in non-cash benefits that included contributions to a pension plan.
The superboard CEO was eligible for a bonus of about 25 per cent of his salary -- or $143,750 in direct bonus pay (dubbed pay-at-risk because it's contingent upon meeting performance targets).
He eventually received $76,619, or 53 per cent of it, based on meeting about half of his set targets -- but fell well short on improving access to the system.
The final bonus amount is determined by the AHS board.
"There's still some work to do. By and large, his performance has been satisfactory," said Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky.
" The board felt this was fair and adequate compensation."
To receive the bonus, Duckett and AHS must reach certain targets, such as reducing the number of patients waiting for hospital beds in the community and reducing emergency waiting times.
On the health board's goals of improving access and wait times (which is weighted for 40 per cent of his bonus), he received only 3.3 per cent.
The superboard failed to open as many acute-care beds as originally planned and didn't hit its targets for reducing wait times in emergency departments and for hip replacement surgeries.
Duckett was awarded 20 out of a possible 30 per cent of his bonus for improving quality of care, including meeting targets for developing an incident report system and establishing health advisory councils.
And on the sustainability side (which is contingent upon hitting budget targets, among others), he received 30 out of 30.
"Albertans are rightly outraged at some of the bonuses that are handed out in spite of the chaos that now exists in our health-care system," said Liberal Leader David Swann, a medical doctor.
There's no reason to be forking out bonuses to health executives who are simply doing their job, and a poor one at that, Swann said.
More than a half-dozen other vice-presidents received bonuses, ranging between about $26,000 and $82,000, for reaching about 64 per cent to 71 per cent of their targets.
Seven other vice-presidents and senior officials received total compensation of $400,000 or more last year, including the VP of quality and service improvement snaring $812,000 in base salary, cash benefits and other non-cash benefits.
AHS board chairman Ken Hughes and other board members weren't available for comment.
Health-care professionals and opposition critics said myriad problems in the health system over the last year should have made it nearly impossible for executives to earn a bonus.
Beyond AHS failing to meet many of its own targets, the agency ran a $885-million deficit last year.
Wait lists for long-term care have grown compared with two years ago, according to recent data.
Furthermore, access to cancer doctors and facilities has been at crisis levels in Calgary and Edmonton.
"How you get a bonus out of that kind of performance is beyond me," said the NDP's Rachel Notley.
Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, said many of her members would argue Duckett doesn't deserve much of a bonus -- if any.
Smith said the health board CEO has alienated nurses during his tenure and was responsible for many "covert layoffs" over the last year by not filling vacant positions.
Other notable findings from the AHS financial statements:
-Total costs to fight the H1N1 influenza outbreak were $58.7 million last fiscal year;
-AHS is named as a defendant in 379 legal claims totalling at least $1.3 billion.
Meanwhile, contracts for a previously announced cataract surgery blitz were unveiled by Zwozdesky on Thursday.
In May, the ministry said it would pump $2 million to fund 1,400 additional cataract surgeries.
Ophthalmologists said they were pleased by the announcement, which is expected to reduce a one-year wait-list for the procedure.
The contracts will enable additional clinics to perform the surgery. Five non-hospital facilities have been approved in Calgary.
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