Niagara’s top health-care officials both received healthy boosts to their take-home pay in 2021.
Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara Region’s acting medical officer of health, was paid $457,420 last year ($$457,013 without taxable benefits included), up from $297,068 in 2020, according to Ontario’s Sunshine List.
Lynn Guerriero, president and chief executive officer of the Niagara Health hospital system, was paid $502,672 in 2021 ($486,441.16 without taxable benefits included), up from $350,269 the previous year.
The addition to Hirji’s regular salary and a Ministry of Health top-up was an overtime payout for 2020, said Region communications consultant Peter Criscione.
The extra payment was following the Region’s non-union extra professional services policy and added at the end of 2021 for “work related to the extenuating circumstances caused by the COVID-19 emergency situation.”
On Friday, the Ontario government released its public sector salary disclosure list, which is commonly called the Sunshine List. The spreadsheet includes all provincial civil servants who earned $100,000 or more in a calendar year, reflecting salaries, bonuses, overtime pay and severances.
In a report to regional council, Ron Tripp, the municipality’s chief administrative officer, said the payments to Hirji were delayed while staff worked to understand the impact, if any, on its physician services agreement. The Region added the payment after the Ministry of Health confirmed it would not impact or reduce the wage top-up for medical officers of health funded 100 per cent by the ministry.
The special payouts were included as COVID-19 extraordinary expenditures in the Region’s 2021 year-end submission to the ministry and have been funded 100 per cent in the past by the ministry with no local tax impact.
The report to council said the ministry’s reconciliation process is behind due to the pressures related to the pandemic, but having the Region make the payouts comes with minimal risk.
“Many other public health units have made similar extra professional services or overtime payments to their respective employees across Ontario,” Tripp’s report said.
Guerriero’s first full year with the hospital system was 2021, and she assumed the additional duties of CEO in January. The change in her title and salary for 2021 reflects that added responsibility.
Niagara Health had been paying St. Joseph’s Health System $145,000 annually to purchase CEO services. When the president and CEO roles were combined, Guerriero received an additional $80,000 for the CEO duties, creating a net savings to Niagara Health of $65,000 annually.
“Lynn joined Niagara Health in February 2020, just before the pandemic was declared and has managed all aspects of the hospital’s accountabilities related to the pandemic response, including all Niagara Region assessment centres, management oversight of two long-term-care facilities in crisis and vaccine administration,” said Niagara Health chair Bunny Alexander.
“She is an accomplished leader in the Ontario health-care system, with more than 30 years of leadership, management and clinical experience within a variety of health-care settings, including provincial government, agency, acute care, rehabilitation and community care.
“Just prior to joining Niagara Health, Lynn served as an assistant deputy minister with the Ontario Ministry of Health.”
In Hamilton, the Spectator reported the CEO at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Dr. Tom Stewart, had the area’s second-highest public-sector salary despite leaving losing his job at St. Joseph’s in January 2021. He was paid $756,947 in salary and taxable benefits. St. Joseph’s also paid $465,235 to its interim CEO, Winnie Doyle. Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, was paid $375,120 in 2021.
Hirji’s pay via the Sunshine List pales compared to Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Greater Sudbury’s medical officer of health. Her reported 2021 income of almost $800,000 made her the ninth highest-paid public servant in the province. Sutcliffe’s earnings included more than $200,000 in overtime pay from 2020 and more than $260,000 in overtime for 2021.
The figure made news because it put her in line with executives from Ontario Power Generation, who occupy the top four spots on the list. Ken Hartwick, its CEO, was the highest-paid provincial employee at $1.628 million.
According to the Sunshine List, the fifth highest-paid public-sector worker is a familiar face in Niagara. Dr. Kevin Smith was paid more than $845,000 as president and CEO of University Health Network in Toronto. Smith left his position as CEO of Niagara Health in 2018, eight years after arriving as a provincially appointed supervisor for the hospital system. He was appointed CEO of Niagara Health in 2014.