Tuesday January 30, 2007
Perks of the health trade
By BILL TIELEMAN
We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior civil servants can be removed for incompetence. We could lose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands.
What B.C. public service job pays you $360,000 a year, lets you sit on a corporate board of directors for another $95,000 and allows you to miss your budget targets by $40 million while disrupting the lives of hundreds of taxpayers?
Meet Ida Goodreau, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
One might think that being CEO of B.C.'s biggest health region, charged with balancing an annual budget of $2.4 billion, would be enough work.
But Goodreau is also a director of Shell Canada, the gasoline company. Goodreau got a whopping $95,750 from Shell Canada for attending board and committee meetings in 2005 and probably a similar amount in 2006 - financial statements haven't yet been released.
Goodreau was also a director of Terasen Gas until December 2005, earning a $25,000 retainer, $1,500 for each of up to 11 board and committee meetings, and $3,000 for committee membership.
It was Goodreau who frantically explained last week why she closed operating rooms and cancelled patient surgeries to deal with Vancouver Coastal's projected $40-million shortfall.
But the cancellations were reversed after B.C. Liberal Health Minister George Abbott couldn't take the heat for his government's underfunding of the region.
In any ordinary government one might expect that a moonlighting top executive paid a king's ransom who can't balance the budget and embarrasses her employer would be shown the door.
But not in B.C. Instead Abbott tried to shift the blame by firing the rookie chair of Vancouver Coastal, Trevor Johnstone, when the responsibility clearly lies elsewhere.
Holding a part-time board chair accountable for Vancouver Coastal's fiscal follies is as ludicrous as letting your CEO jet off to Shell Canada meetings in Calgary up to 22 times a year.
Then neighbouring Fraser Health Region chair Keith Purchase quit because of government under-funding and the firing of Johnstone.
The new Vancouver Coastal chair, former Teck Cominco boss David Thompson, has likely been hired to get rid of Goodreau. Abbott tellingly informed media it's not the province which fires health authority CEOs but their boards and chairs.
So Goodreau may pay the price for failures that really should be blamed on the provincial government's continued underfunding and poor health-care management.
But Goodreau no doubt stands to cash in with a big severance package if terminated. And thanks to being allowed to sit as a Shell Canada director, Goodreau holds shares and deferred share units last evaluated at $330,000 to cushion any fall.
Nice work if you can get it.