BCMC top managers in line for bonuses

Published 2:46 am Sunday, July 4, 2010

Community Editor

Community Editor
Despite owing Beaufort County a $1.57 million debt payment, Beaufort County Medical Center’s Board of Trustees voted to give bonuses to the medical center’s four highest-ranking employees at its March 30 meeting.
The bonuses, amounting to 20 percent of each employee’s salary, are contingent on the employees staying with the medical center until the end of March 2011, according to board member Hood Richardson.
The employees still in line for a bonus are Susan Shaw Gerard, the medical center’s medical practice administrator; Christopher Riggs, chief financial officer; and Lynne Fisher, director of nursing. Bill Bedsole, former chief executive officer, is no longer eligible for a bonus after handing in his resignation last week, said Edwin “Sandy” Hardy, chairman of the board. His bonus was reportedly around $50,000.
The bonus proposal, also known as the “Executive Compensation packages,” was passed by a 6-3 vote, according to minutes from the board’s March 30 meeting. Board members Hardy, Richardson, Grace Bonner, Dr. Sandy Easley, Jack Piland and Curtis Potter voted for the proposal, while Alice Mills Sadler, Clifton Gray and Allen Roberson voted against it.
When asked about the proposal recently, Mills Sadler said, “It appears the majority of board members (gave) them incentives to stay.”
“I voted against it,” she added.
At the board’s April 27 meeting, Mills Sadler made a motion to freeze merit pay increases for Bedsole, Gerard, Riggs and Fisher, also known as the executive administration team,” for one year. After a “lengthy discussion,” according to the minutes, the motion passed by a 5-4 vote. In addition to Mills Sadler, board members Richardson, Roberson, Gray and Hardy voted for the freeze. Bonner, Potter, Piland and Easley voted against it.
At the same meeting, Richardson offered a motion to implement deferral of merit pay increases for all employees for one year, which failed by a 7-2 margin. He also offered a motion to approve a 5 percent pay cut for all employees, effective immediately, which failed to get a second.
Around this time, Bedsole was “mentioning things that would have been difficult in these economic times,” Mills Sadler said. She declined to elaborate.
Richardson said the bonus proposal was put into place because of “uncertainties,” most notably the possible merger of the medical center with a larger health-care provider.
Richardson and Hardy called the proposal a common business practice during times of transition. They said that the executive administrative team probably would be let go if a merger took place.
“You have to give financial incentives to stay,” Hardy said.
Prior to Bedsole’s resignation, Richardson argued that the medical center was saving money, in the long run, by offering compensation packages to the executive administrative team.
“It was done to prevent future losses,” he said.
Richardson added that training replacements for any of the four would cost the medical center “millions.”
“If we had two or three jump ship and bring new people in, there would be a training curve,” he said.
Days after Richardson spoke to the Washington Daily News about the bonus proposal, Bedsole resigned. On Tuesday, the board voted to replace Bedsole with a management team from University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. Richardson voted against the measure.
Hardy said in an interview after the meeting that he did not know how much it would cost the hospital to bring in the management team, saying instead that it would be “very reasonable.”
A special meeting has been called by Richardson, Mills Sadler and Gray to review the contract with UHS. The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the medical center.
In addition to compensation packages offered to the executive administrative team, Christmas bonuses were given to employees throughout the medical center, according to an e-mail sent from Bedsole to Gerard, Riggs and Fisher in mid-November 2009.
“I still want to give bonuses to all of our employees this Christmas. I’m OK with the formula below for regular employees, but what do you guys think about $500 for managers? From a benefit perspective, our managers really don’t have much of an edge over a regular employee, so I’m inclined to keep up the $500 tradition,” reads the e-mail.
The “formula” included a $500 bonus for managers and a $100 bonus for full-time employees with at least six months of service.
Pam Shadle, director of public relations for the medical center, said the medical center has from 35 to 40 employees in management positions.