Letter: WhidbeyHealth CEO salary needs to match Whidbey

Editor,

As the WhidbeyHealth commissioners consider whether to give the retiring CEO an “incentive compensation” — bonus — I hope they will decide “no.”

I also hope the commissioners will consider a level of compensation for the next CEO that is more in touch with the needs of our community.

Here’s why: a base pay of $390,000 for an administrator on Whidbey Island has a corrosive effect on our society. It is disproportionate and uncharacteristic of the way we operate here.

Didn’t I read recently that Whidbey Island benefits from more than 100 nonprofit organizations? I’m betting that most are being led by competent, hard-working leaders, many of whom would be lucky to receive compensation at even 20 percent of the WhidbeyHealth CEO’s base pay.

Most are serving the community with the help and expertise of volunteers. These leaders, their staff and their volunteers help us care for one another. They show us a better way. They are driven by mission rather than salary.

It just isn’t necessary to pay enormous salaries to attract high levels of talent. A living wage “yes,” but an exorbitant one? “No.”

It just isn’t necessary to concentrate enormous sums in one administrator and continue to drive up the already high cost for health care. Now is the time to examine the effect that our public hospital has on its standing in the community when it pays, with public funds, an unwarranted level of compensation. Now is the time to change that.

By forgoing “incentive compensation” for the outgoing CEO, and by setting a reasonable salary for the incoming CEO, the commissioners of WhidbeyHealth can show that what works for the nonprofits can also be successfully applied to a large and complicated institution. The commissioners can improve the standing of WhidbeyHealth in the community and they can help stem the growing divisions caused by income inequality. That would be the real bonus.

Chris Peterson

Clinton

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