June 27, 2012; Source: Sacramento Business Journal

In times of extended financial hardship, highlighting nonprofit salaries that are well beyond the norm has become easy pickin’s as far as local headlines are concerned. Some of the stories are silly and some valid but often the public has a hard time discerning which is which. So here is this story, where the Sacramento Business Journal has put together a slideshow of 27 local executives of medical nonprofits who make more than $1 million each. The Journal acknowledges that this is something of an anomaly based on the fact that there are a number of health networks based in Sacramento. Twenty-two of the medical millionaires listed, in fact, work for the same organization: Sutter Health.

It may be interesting to note that this information is not without context in the public consciousness. Sutter Health was embroiled in negotiations with unions earlier this year and the unions ended up proposing two ballot measures in California; one would have forced nonprofit hospitals to provide charity care in an amount equal to at least five percent of the hospital’s revenue from patients and the other would have disallowed hospitals from charging more than 25 percent above the hospital’s cost for administering the care. This article said hospitals “hated” the proposal which “would have cost them billions.” Sutter would have been one of the groups affected. The unions eventually abandoned the initiative, although nurses at several hospitals affiliated with Sutter went out on strike as recently as last Wednesday, charging that the hospitals were putting profits ahead of patients.

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We could add a statement that sums up the public relations problem of a nonprofit hospital system paying its execs millions in the midst of all this conversation about how much profit is too much and how little free care is too little, but why bother? You are smart enough to understand why the communities Sutter serves might be less than happy with this picture. –Ruth McCambridge