[Sept. 29, 2014] FREMONT, Calif. – Public outrage is growing over using $1 million in taxpayer funds to pay Washington Hospital’s CEO, as voters strongly support a possible ballot initiative capping her compensation at $450,000 and creating term limits for the executive board of the publicly financed hospital, according to a recent poll conducted in Alameda County.
“Washington Hospital’s priorities are upside down and the public agrees it’s time to restore some accountability,” said Brad Estrada, an orthopedic technician and union steward at Washington Hospital in Fremont. “It’s outrageous that instead of protecting patient safety, top executives are enriching themselves at taxpayers’ expense and laying off workers.”
The survey last week of 500 registered voters who live in the Washington Township Health Care District shows 72 percent of respondents support a ballot measure that prohibits any Washington Hospital executive from being paid more in salary and benefits than the President of the United States, who receives $450,000 annually. Of those who oppose the ballot measure, 27 percent said it is because the proposed compensation cap is too high.
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) and the Ohlone Area United Democratic Campaign commissioned the poll, conducted by the respected polling organization Benenson Strategy Group. The poll sponsors are encouraged by the results and will evaluate the feasibility of pursuing ballot initiatives on executive compensation and term limits.
Washington Hospital CEO Nancy Farber receives more than $1 million in compensation and the five-highest paid executives at the hospital receive nearly $3 million a year. Voters strongly oppose Farber’s compensation, with 87 percent of voters describing it as “unreasonable.” Her compensation package includes a salary of $593,000; free auto insurance for her and her family members; free health insurance for the rest of her life; reimbursement for her charitable contributions; and three new Lexus automobiles, averaging $70,000 in price, since 2005.
Voter frustration over the excessive salaries extends to the elected board of Washington Hospital, which sets the executive compensation. According to the poll, 69 percent want term limits for the board and 52 percent said they would not vote to re-elect the five-member board.
“The Ohlone Area UDC co-sponsored this poll because for a long time the public has had concerns about Washington Hospital leadership and the compensation of their executives, and the poll clearly indicates that there is broad support for taking action,” said John R. Smith, Chair of the Ohlone Area United Democratic Campaign. “It is outrageous to pay top executives of a public hospital huge salaries at a time when you are eliminating frontline caregivers who provide direct patient care.”
Washington Hospital announced earlier in September it would lay off 31 employees, just two years after it laid off 200 other workers. SEIU-UHW represents 500 employees at the hospital.