Dr. Airica Steed replaces fired MetroHealth CEO

This week, Airica Steed, EdD, RN, replaces Akram Boutros, MD, who was fired as president and CEO of Cleveland-based MetroHealth System.

MetroHealth named Dr. Steed the health system's next president and CEO in September. Dr. Steed, who was executive vice president and system COO of Sinai Chicago Health System, will take the helm of MetroHealth on Dec. 5.

She takes over as CEO and president two weeks after Dr. Boutros was fired. Dr. Boutros was terminated Nov. 21 after the MetroHealth board of trustees said that between 2018 and 2022, he authorized more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses for himself, without disclosure to the board. Board Chair Vanessa Whiting said MetroHealth discovered the compensation issues while preparing for the CEO transition, and an internal investigation took place, led by the Tucker Ellis law firm.

Dr. Boutros alleges board retaliation. He also filed a lawsuit Nov. 28, alleging violations of Ohio's Open Meetings Act and the board bylaws. The lawsuit asks the court to nullify Dr. Boutros' termination for cause. Specifically, the lawsuit contends the bonus money was authorized and accuses the MetroHealth board of violating the law in its hiring of Dr. Steed.

Dr. Steed will earn an annual salary of $900,000, with a total cash compensation package between about $1.1 million and about $1.4 million, MetroHealth told The Plain Dealer on Dec. 2.

For comparison purposes, Dr. Boutros earned $10.6 million since 2018, including $4.2 million in bonuses, part of which the board says Dr. Boutros paid himself without board approval, according to documents the health system provided to the newspaper Dec. 1.

In response to questions from The Plain Dealer, MetroHealth said in a statement that it is "premature to speculate" about possible future changes under Dr. Steed to the performance-based variable compensation plan.

"Over the next few weeks, Dr. Steed is going to be getting up to speed on hundreds of operational details, including the compensation structure at MetroHealth. It's simply premature even to speculate on possible changes," the health system told the newspaper.

Dr. Steed told The Plain Dealer via email that she will "focus first and foremost on getting to know our 8,000 employees and on meeting with stakeholders throughout Cuyahoga County — shining a light on what MetroHealth has always been and reminding everyone that we are here to serve."

She also told the newspaper, "If we keep our mission at the center of everything we do, if all 8,000 of us are working every day to deliver exceptional health care and help improve the quality of life for everyone, I know we will earn and deserve the public's trust."

Dr. Boutros became president and CEO of MetroHealth in 2013. Nabil Chehade, MD, executive vice president and chief clinical transformation officer at MetroHealth, assumed the CEO's duties on an interim basis until Dr. Steed's arrival.

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