Top Hutcheson executives' salaries still up in air

Top Hutcheson executives' salaries still up in air

June 29th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Hutcheson Medical Center. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

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WHAT'S NEXT

The board of directors of Hutcheson Medical Center Inc. meets at 5:30 p.m. today in the hospital's boardroom.

Two months after Hutcheson Medical Center signed up for financial help from Erlanger Health System, representatives from both hospitals aren't revealing anything about salaries for Hutcheson's top executives.

Tax records showed that Hutcheson's former chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief nursing officer made a combined $630,626 in base salaries.

In April, the Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained a document describing an agreement that said Erlanger will select a new leadership team for Hutcheson and pay members a combined total of "approximately $1 million per year." If benefits are included, that would constitute a collective raise of 58 percent.

The actual management agreement did not go into specifics, and Erlanger officials vehemently denied the $1 million figure. They said compensation packages are "flexible" and to be determined.

Eight weeks later, Erlanger hasn't hired a new executive team for Hutcheson and officials aren't saying much beyond that. Hutcheson spokeswoman Haley Johnson initially deferred to Erlanger leaders before Erlanger spokeswoman Pat Charles deferred back to Johnson.

"Regarding executive leadership, [Interim CEO] Debbie Reeves remains the onsite administrator at Hutcheson," Johnson wrote in an email.

Rock City CEO Bill Chapin, a Hutcheson Medical Center board member, said he and other board members didn't know of an executive pay structure, but said Erlanger is handling the process well.

The lack of any movement on executives could be interpreted as a cost-savings move, he said, showing that Erlanger won't hire executives and will continue "making the key decisions for Hutcheson hospital."

Asked if that's been discussed as potential executive strategy, Chapin said, "I think we'll find that out as [Erlanger] continues to develop their strategic plan."

That plan remains vague. Erlanger President and CEO Jim Brexler briefed Hutcheson board members on June 15. Three of the points he mentioned were "stabilize operations," "restore confidence" and "revitalize Hutcheson Medical Center," Johnson wrote.

The management agreement allows Erlanger, which historically receives $3 million from Hamilton County, to funnel up to $20 million in credit into the North Georgia hospital. Hutcheson has lost $1 million a month for most of the last year.

In March, Hutcheson announced 75 layoffs - nearly 10 percent of its workforce. No new layoffs have occurred since then, but a late draft of the management agreement states that Erlanger and Hutcheson will "transition those employees for which there is no foreseeable need at the hospital."