Transparency doesn`t come easily to the medical community – that`s OK – lawyers have the same problem.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  January 3, 2012  A Burlington resident commented on our first story about the government requirement that senior hospital staff make their pay scale and expense spending public and said: “Here’s another reason why that secrecy is stupid: Taxpayers already know roughly how much Eric Vandewall is paid.  According to other media sources Vandewall was paid $334,990.65 in 2010 and given a car allowance of “around” $1,100 a month.

“This stonewalling is nonsensical and seems inconsistent with the spirit of we’re-all-in-this-together community you think Jo Brant would be using in their fundraising drive”


Hospital spokespeople said earlier in December that they would not post the pay scales until January 3rd because they were not required to do so – which raised a bit of dust and the question: why not?

Joseph Brant Memorial Hosapital CEO Eric Vandewall poses with Prime Minister Stephen Harper - the PM didn't have a cheque for the CEO. Vandewall wants to get his picture taken with the Premier of the province - that's where the funds have got to come from.

If the figure reported is correct Vandewall is one of the best paid civil servants in Burlington.  Well someone has to be at the top of the list and if the money that person gets is from the public trough – it gets declared. The presidents of large publicly traded companies have their salaries and benefits published in annual reports.  The only time you don’t have to tell the world what you’ve earned is when it is a private company that you own.  Then the only person you have to tell is the tax man.

What is frustrating is the tendency some civil servants have to duck the very valid question: How much public money are we giving you?  Then the public can decide if the person is worth what they are being paid.

Andrea Horwath, NDP leader and MPP for Hamilton Centre makes the point that “leadership on cost-cutting has to start at the top. You can’t expect a nurse to take a pay freeze while the CEOs are raking in not only high salaries and bonuses but also perks … These perks are all part of the equation, when we look at trying to get control over costs in the hospital sector” says Horwath.

Horwath has long been fighting to rein in hospital CEOs salaries and in the process scores political points and keep her blue colour base happy.

Smith makes nearly $725,000 a year and Martin is just over $700,000. Higgins makes nearly $490,000 and Vandewall gets just over $350,000 in salary and taxable benefits.

At St. Joseph’s Healthcare, CEO Kevin Smith gets $1,000 a month and drives a Mercedes ML Diesel SUV. Smith is paid nearly $725,000 a year.  Heck based on that – Vandewall (who gets just over $350,000) should be looking for an increase.  Because for the next five years – maybe ten, he is going to be battling the bureaucrats at Queen`s Park to get the funding to rebuild the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, when the province doesn`t have any money and at the same time deal with city hall to coax out of them some of the cash they already have in the bank.

Vandewall has to clear the property parking lot so that the expansion can take place and to do that he has to build a parking lot.  The city of Burlington doesn`t want to put their money into a parking lot for a couple of reasons: there is nothing sexy about a parking lot and the city isn`t all that sure the province will really, really come through.  The Mayors Letter to the Editor in the Post notwithstanding.  To hand over $20 million to the hospital now and see a parking lot go up – and not get the revenue from that parking – is proving to be a tough one for the city to swallow.  The definitive agreement between the city and the hospital is still going back and forth.  But somehow Vandewall has to convince the city to let the money flow his way.

Vandewall has to attend every Gala that is put on to raise money for the hospital - but he doesn't have to pay for the tickets.

Then he has to glad hand for the next five years to get the people with deep pockets to come up with the $60 million the Hospital Foundation has to raise.  Were I Eric Vandewall, I would be renting billboards and telling the city how much I am being paid and then ask for a raise.  He has one of the toughest jobs in the city and quite frankly I don`t care what kind of a car he drives.  That is none of my business.  How much we give him to pay for the car – that is public information.

When on compares what Vandewall is earning with what his colleagues a few miles away are earning and you measure that against what the guy does – he is worth every dollar we are giving him.  This guy oversees the building of hospitals – and that is no simple task.

Before coming to Burlington, Vandewall was the senior vice-president of Trillium Health Centre, where he over saw the building of the Trillium Health Centre’s West Toronto 18,510-square-foot addition and 23,575-square-foot renovation.

Construction setbacks – including a labour strike, record summer rainfall and construction challenges – put the project behind schedule. Still, Ellis Don, the general contractor, was able to make up the time to bring it in on time and within budget, which included being just under the five per cent contingency allowance.

While Vandewall didn’t do all this by himself he certainly directed the team and made all the parts come together.  This guy knows how to get a hospital built – now if he can learn how to work a little more effectively with the city and soothe the nerves of the politicians who will take it in the neck if they end up paying for a parking lot garage and then have to  wait more than ten years for their hospital.

One thing that did surprise me about the pay packages was that the cost of subscriptions to the numerous galas these people have to attend is covered in their remuneration package.  What we are doing is using tax dollars to pay these administrators – some of whom are brilliant – and then giving them a perk that they use to buy a ticket to a fund raising event to build the hospital.  Is that what they mean by paying Peter to rob Paul?   I thought these people paid for their tickets out of their own personal funds.  Maybe I am naïve.



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