Tri-City healthcare workers file ballot initiative

REGION — Tri-City Medical Center healthcare workers filed a ballot initiative on Dec. 17 to limit the public healthcare district’s administrator pay to $250,000 a year. The initiative also calls for annual publication of the hospital’s top administrators’ salaries.

The next steps will be to collect signatures from Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista voters to put the initiative on the November ballot.

“The goal is 14,000 signatures in 180 days,” Sean Wherley, media relations for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said. “We want to be sure we have enough to qualify.”

Wherley said he is confident needed signatures will be collected. A survey of 500 area voters showed 83 percent support for an initiative to cap top hospital salaries.

“The public is very concerned about excessive salaries,” Wherley said. “It’s the public’s charge to hold them accountable for the best patient care, keeping prices in check.”

Last November Tri-City workers rallied outside a hospital fundraiser dinner at Aviara Resort in Carlsbad to alert the public to administrators’ high salaries and possible outsourcing of workers.

They also sponsored a $4,000 table at the fundraiser dinner to have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with hospital donors about their concerns.

At that time David Bennett, Tri-City chief marketing officer, said outsourcing jobs is not going to happen, and salaries are kept at competitive rates “executive or not.”

Workers continue to be concerned about hospital high salaries and possible outsourcing.

Most say money would be better spent on patient care and equitable compensation for all employees.

“It’s long overdue for Tri-City Medical Center to be accountable to taxpayers,” Charles Harris, Tri-City transportation driver, said. “For years the top executives at this hospital have given themselves bloated salaries and benefits well beyond what’s reasonable.”

Wherley said Tri-City would still attract top administrators if salaries were reduced.

The union looked into 2013 public records and found Tri-City CEO Tim Moran received (at that time) $456,000 annually, the seventh highest administrator pay of the 37 California public healthcare districts. Other CEO salaries ranged from $84,000 to $762,000, with most paid in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.

Wherley also used a comparative bed count of nearby Grossmont Healthcare District in La Mesa as a “pretty good indicator of demand.” Grossmont has 536 beds compared to Tri-City’s 397 beds, and pays its CEO less than half of what Tri-City does.

However, most California healthcare districts with 350 or more beds pay CEOs the top statewide salaries.

Voters can expect to see workers out collecting signatures in January. Signatures must be turned in by June 14.

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