Agreement raises pay for Hutcheson leadership, hints at future layoffs

Agreement raises pay for Hutcheson leadership, hints at future layoffs

April 15th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis<br/> Hutcheson Medical Center.

Erlanger Health System will choose Hutcheson Medical Center's top three executives and pay them a combined $1 million a year, a 58 percent increase over what those positions were paid, according to a document detailing the management agreement between the hospitals.

The document, obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, also spells out a plan to conduct a top-to-bottom personnel review as part of a strategic plan.

"HMC and Erlanger will identify and transition certain employees," the document states.

"Some may be offered a position at Erlanger, 'leased' by Erlanger from Hutcheson, or otherwise contract with one of them," the document states. "Through December 2012, Erlanger will maintain a list of transitioned employees and endeavor to hire those who match with an appropriate position opening."

No timeline for a personnel review is identified.

The overall agreement and executive pay plan were approved unanimously April 3 by three Hutcheson boards. That was less than 24 hours before the Fort Oglethorpe hospital laid off 75 workers as part of what officials called "a plan to reduce expenses and improve efficiencies within the hospital system."

Erlanger spokeswoman Pat Charles acknowledged the document Thursday, but declined to comment. While all relevant boards have ratified the agreement, it has not been signed.

SALARIES

Here are the most recent base salaries paid for Hutcheson's top executives:

Former CEO Charles Stewart - $331,752

Former CFO Gerald Faircloth - $147,515

Former CNO Debbie Reeves (now serving as interim CEO) - $151,359

Total: $630,626

Source: Hutcheson tax records

"Premature for us to address these questions ... at this point," she wrote in an email.

The $1 million in executive pay appears to constitute a raise for Hutcheson's to-be-named top three officials. Base salaries for the positions previously added up to $630,626, according to hospital tax records.

Hutcheson is losing $1 million a month and recently defaulted on a $35 million bond as doctors left and the number of patients dwindled.

In August, Hutcheson hired a consultant to evaluate its 900 full-time and part-time employees, deciding who was expendable based on crowded shifts and overfilled positions.

The management document raises questions about future layoffs in terms of staff duplication at both hospitals. Accounts payable, facilities maintenance and records clerks are among about a dozen positions listed under the heading, "Other Erlanger duties and functions."

Hospital records show hundreds of Hutcheson employees with job titles identical or similar to those listed on the management document.

When the Chattanooga hospital's board gave the agreement final approval Wednesday, Erlanger CEO and President Jim Brexler remarked that the "process had concluded without any material changes to our original proposal."