Campbell government health board appointees rake in $1 million in fees

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Government appointees to B.C.’s six health authority boards pocketed $1,002,572 in directors’ fees last year, says the Hospital Employees’ Union.

Financial documents, obtained by the union under the provisions of the Financial Information Act, also show that the province’s health authorities coughed up $102,271 in expense payments to directors.

Click here for A backgrounder detailing fees and expenses paid to health authority directors and listing donations to the B.C. Liberal Party.

Dominated by forestry executives, financiers, resort owners and other representatives of B.C.’s corporate elite, the ranks of directors charged with running the province’s six health authorities also include generous donors to the B.C. Liberal Party.

“In his budget speech, the finance minister said that dollars saved in health care restructuring would go back into care for patients,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“But it seems that one result of government policy is the diversion of a million dollars from health care’s front-lines into health authority boardrooms.”

In the five years leading up to their appointments to health authority boards in April, 2002, 30 of the 57 directors — either individually or through companies and organizations with which they’re associated — donated $1,145,103 to the party’s campaign war chest. They include:
  • Terasen’s Vancouver Island CEO Jac Kreut, who received $44,500 in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003 for chairing the board of the Vancouver Island Health Authority. Kreut is the former CEO of Centra Gas, a subsidiary of Westcoast Energy bought in 2002 by B.C. Gas (now Terasen). Centra and Westcoast donated nearly $142,000 to the B.C. Liberals between 1996 and 2001;
  • MacMillan Bloedel’s former chief operating officer and executive vice-president Keith Purchase, who got $37,265 for chairing the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority board. Purchase is the ex-CEO of TimberWest Forest Products and a director of Norske Canada. Those three firms donated more than $330,000 to the B.C. Liberals between 1996 and 2001;
  • Joel Nauss, who got $12,971 for sitting on the Provincial Health Services Authority board last year. His company, Westpro Constructors Group, donated $3,250 to the B.C. Liberals between 1996 and 2001. Nauss is past president of the Independent Contractors Association of B.C., which donated more than a quarter million dollars to the B.C. Liberals over the same period.
The government-appointed chairs of the six health authorities’ boards of directors were paid fees ranging between $19,572 and $44,500 in the year ending March 31, 2003 while directors pocketed between $7,750 and $22,401.

On average, the six health authority board chairs were paid $35,318 in fees while the 51 directors were paid $15,503.

By comparison, the Calgary Health Region paid its board chair $8,000 in fees during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002 (the latest information available). Directors serving a full year were paid between $2,000 and $12,000 a year and averaged $6,000.

Before the B.C. Liberal government reorganized regional health authorities in late 2001, board members did not receive directors’ fees.

“When services are being cut and thousands of health care workers are losing their jobs in the name of austerity, it is disgusting that the government could boast of its supposed savings through restructuring while treating health authority boards like just another corporate directorship to be shared among friends and insiders,” says Allnutt. “The level of hypocrisy is truly obscene.”

Since their appointment by the B.C. Liberal government in March, 2002, the six health authority boards of directors have:
  • announced that they would close more than 3,000 long-term care (and have closed more than half of those beds) despite promising to build 5,000 new long-term and intermediate care beds;
  • fired more than 5,000 health care workers and contracted out their work to foreign corporations despite promising to respect their collective agreements;
  • spent millions on health care advertising despite promising not to do so;
  • closed or downgraded hospitals in communities that include New Westminster, Kimberly, Summerland, Victoria, Delta and Vancouver; and
  • allowed surgical waitlists to grow by more than 25 per cent since June, 2001.
-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications director, 604-828-6771 (cell)