$15 Million for Hopkins President

It’s big news in the Baltimore Sun: Johns Hopkins Hospital President Ronald Peterson got $15.4 million in total compensation in fiscal year 2013.

Peterson’s base pay jumped 9.25 percent last year, but the hospital is telling struggling caregivers to take a 1.5 percent raise in the first year of their new contract.

And it’s not just Peterson who’s getting outsized pay at Hopkins. Altogether, the 10 highest-paid executives at the Johns Hopkins Health System took home more than $26 million in total compensation in 2013.

Just the bonus pay for those 10 top executives totaled $1.8 million, with Peterson snagging a $455,714 bonus. Peterson’s pay package would be appalling enough for a Fortune 500 CEO, but how can a nonprofit hospital justify that kind of compensation?

In fact, the Cleveland Clinic—one of America’s other top hospitals—refuses to give bonuses to its executives.

Cleveland Clinic Board member Joseph Scaminace says bonuses “make it too easy for leaders to focus on finances instead of patients…. Whenever the subject has been raised by any of our board members, it very quickly gets tabled as something that’s very inappropriate.”

Unfortunately, Hopkins management has a very different take on what’s appropriate.

Hopkins officials tried to downplay Peterson’s huge payday by arguing that it includes pension benefits and one-time retirement payouts based on years of service.

But even in 2012, Peterson’s compensation was well above that of his peers at the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic and Partners HealthCare in Boston, three top hospital systems that Hopkins is often compared to. Peterson made at least $300,000 more than the next highest-paid CEO.

And while Hopkins pays Peterson better than his peers at those institutions, the hospital pays frontline caregivers worse than their peers at the nation’s other top hospitals.

As the Baltimore Business Journal reported on June 18, wages for many workers at Hopkins “lag behind the world-class institute’s national peers.”

The Business Journal’s story was based on a recent 1199SEIU study of wages at America’s top hospitals. The study reviewed workers’ wages in 2012 at 35 leading teaching hospitals and at the 18 hospitals listed on the 2013-2014 U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of best hospitals.

As the Business Journal noted, housekeeping employees at Hopkins “made $4.26 an hour less than the average hourly pay among the teaching hospitals reviewed and $3.88 an hour less than the U.S. News top hospitals reviewed.”

Read the Baltimore Sun op-ed about Peterson’s pay by 1199SEIU member Yvonne Brown.