Health employers refuse FOI request to provide severance payout details

News release

But some regional authorities turn over details of whopping pay boosts for senior administrators

The Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) says a refusal by most B.C. health authorities to release details of severance payments made to fired health care brass is a sign of a brewing scandal that should put even more pressure on the Campbell government to launch an independent investigation into who’s getting what and why.

“In mid-February, we filed detailed Freedom of Information requests with all six B.C. health authorities for golden handshake details on dozens of executives let go between Dec. 12 and Feb. 19,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt.

“But in the ensuing six weeks, only two regions answered our query,” he says. “One region refused outright, and two more sought to delay by requesting time extensions. The Northern region did not respond at all.”

Allnutt charges that health employers are balking because by their own admission they’re still negotiating payouts for fired executives. “And, privately,” he says, “they’re telling us that the sticking point in these negotiations is that everyone wants the same treatment that ex-CEO Pat Zannon got in her controversial $700,000 handshake.

“The fact that they’re trying to do deals after the fact is alarming,” says Allnutt, “because it’s a clear violation of government regulations and guidelines. We can’t understand why Premier Campbell and his government have let this one get so out of control. That’s why an independent investigation is so urgently needed into the Zannon payout and into why Victoria is allowing the rules on severance to be broken.”

Additional details of recent pay increases granted to top brass were also requested in the same FOI, says Allnutt. “While we’re still waiting for three authorities to come clean, data that we did receive shows that the Campbell government’s handpicked regional health czars have approved some whopping pay boosts in the last few months.”

For example, Vancouver Coastal region CEO Phil Hassen has received two pay boosts totaling $45,000 in the last three months, elevating his pay to $323,000. And in Kelowna, huge wage increases ranging from 12 to 30 per cent for senior Interior Health administrators have also been approved since the Liberal’s Dec. 12 health region restructuring announcement.

Allnutt says HEU will file appeals with the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and file additional FOIs to force health employers to release post Feb. 19 severance arrangements.

— 30 — Contact: Stephen Howard, communications director, 604-456-7037 (direct) or 604-240-8524 (cell)