Bonuses paid out to Denver Health execs 1 week after front-line workers asked to take unpaid leave

Top executives from Denver Health Medical Center received 2019 performance bonuses ranging from $50,000 to $230,000 one week after front-line workers were asked to take unpaid leave or cut their hours due to the financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CBS4 investigation.

Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein on April 3 implemented a hiring freeze and asked employees to voluntarily take leave without pay, use personal time off or reduce their work hours due to the financial hit from the pandemic.

One week later, on April 10, millions of dollars in Management Incentive Plan bonuses were paid out to executives. For example, Ms. Wittenstein received a bonus of $230,000 and Connie Price, MD, Denver Health's CMO, received a bonus of $95,792, according to the report.

Ms. Wittenstein defended the bonuses, saying they help the executive team be paid more in line with their peers around the country.

"We want to try to pay people fairly," Ms. Wittenstein told CBS4. "Those incentives are what keeps people at the midpoint of the compensation range."

In an email to her executive staff dated April 14, Ms. Wittenstein urged them to give back to the organization in some way amid the pandemic, including taking unpaid time off or making a cash donation to help support operations, according to Denver Health. 

"Right now, we have staff from across the organization who are feeling like they are being asked to take PTO, low census and furlough and they are looking to leadership to ensure we are also impacted by the pandemic. It would certainly send quite a message if we could report commitment by leadership to these actions, as a group," wrote Ms. Wittenstein, according to CBS4.

All executive staff have agreed to contribute money or take unpaid leave, according to the report. 

Access the full report here.

More articles on compensation: 

Vidant reducing executive, staff pay
Yale New Haven Health employees to receive COVID-19 bonus payment
Union seeks hazard pay for University of Chicago hospital workers

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