By Scott Myers, contributor
with Jim Bleyer
During the last 15 years or so, there has been a gradual erosion of pay and benefits at Tampa General Hospital (TGH), most acutely felt by the longest tenured employees, who also happen to be the most experienced and most highly skilled.
Meanwhile, at the top of the TGH food chain, the story is quite different with ballooning benefits for principal administrators.
The large payouts for executives coupled with the shrinking benefits of the average worker coincide with the tenure of stiff neck David Straz, Tampa mayoral candidate, on TGH’s board of directors.
In 1997, after a bitter public debate, the hospital converted from public to private, not-for-profit after hospital leaders argued that going “nonprofit” was the only way to preserve Tampa General’s financial ability to serve the poor.
That’s about the time billionaire Straz hopped on the board. He resigned in 2016, magnanimously bleating to the press that instituting pay for TGH directors was somehow immoral.
Before he discharged himself, Straz ensured that executives received golden parachutes while longtime workers were screwed in terms of pay, retirement, hours, you name it.
The folks who actually interact with the patients, such as nurses, nurses’ aides, respiratory therapists, housekeeping staff, administrative staff, medical equipment techs, phlebotomists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc. are the ones who primarily define the patient’s experience while in the hospital.
If these care providers are not high quality the hospital will not be high quality. Granted, it is a given that the hospital must have high quality doctors as well.
Regarding TGH retirement benefits, up through the end of calendar year 2013, TGH contributed 9.5% of an employee’s annual wages to the 100% Employer funded ‘Florida Health Sciences Center, Inc. Retirement Plan’. Employees who are participants in this plan are longer service employees – total plan membership is about 7,000.
This plan is not available for recently hired or new-hire employees. Beginning in 2014, the employer contribution to this plan was reduced to 3% as TGH introduced a 403b plan where it would match up to 4% of an employee’s annual wages. Thus, the maximum employer contribution was reduced from 9.5% to 7%. This persisted through the end of calendar year 2017.
Starting this year, TGH has frozen the employer plan (reduced employer contribution to 0%) and has increased the maximum employer match of the 403b plan to 4.5%. So TGH has reduced its employer retirement plan contribution for its most experienced employees from 9.5% in 2013 to a maximum of 4.5% in 2018.
Regarding pay, my limited sampling of TGH employees reveals that even with favorable performance reviews, longer service employees are receiving an average of about 1.5% raises over the last 6 years.
And then there is the fact that many of these employees are required to perform continuing education in order to maintain their certifications and specialty credentials, e.g registered nurses. While TGH does pay for the cost of attending training conferences, it does not pay for employee time while attending the conferences.
So, the employee’s choice is to forego the pay for this mandatory training, or use vacation days so that one does get paid. And if the employee chooses to attend a conference outside of the Tampa Bay area, the travel and living expenses are paid by the employee.
As TGH is a ‘not for profit’ organization, its IRS 990 forms are publicly available. I reviewed Fiscal Years (FY) 2001 through 2016 (FY 2002 and 2003 are unavailable), focusing in on ‘highest compensated employees’. As the graph below shows, total compensation for TGH’s highest paid employees grew from $3.2 million in FY2001 to $17.6 million in FY16.
The number of highest paid employees per FY has grown dramatically as well over the years from 14 in FY2001 to 35 in FY2016 .
The average compensation for highest paid employees has also grown dramatically, from $232,000 in FY2001 to $502,000 in FY2016.
Focusing in on long-tenured TGH executives, there are 5 that were on staff for the entire 15 year period . Ron Hytoff’s compensation is way above the other four.
This is the modus operandi fot TGH since Straz joined the board and it opted for “nonprofit” status.
So while all these dollars were going to the upper echelon, who was paying attention to the erosion of pay and benefits of the employees below them? They are truly the ones that make TGH a great hospital.
This is just one more example of more and more of the pie going to the ‘one-percenters’ at the expense of the working and middle class.
You can bet as the leader of Tampa (a supreme longshot) that Straz will make his rich buddies richer at the expense of the rest of us.
Editor’s Note: The wife of writer Scott Myers is an employee at Tampa General Hospital.