MetroHealth fires CEO over more than $1.9M in unreported bonuses

The board of trustees at Cleveland-based MetroHealth System has fired President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD.

Dr. Boutros was fired Nov. 21 after the board received findings of a probe into compensation issues involving more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses, Vanessa Whiting, chair of the board, said in a statement posted on the health system's website. The statement says that between 2018 and 2022, Dr. Boutros authorized the compensation for himself, without disclosure to the board.

"We have taken these actions mindfully and deliberately but with sadness and disappointment," Ms. Whiting said. "We all recognize the wonderful things Dr. Boutros has done for our hospital and for the community. However, we know of no organization permitting its CEO to self-evaluate and determine their entitlement to an additional bonus and at what amount, as Dr. Boutros has done."

Dr. Boutros took the helm of MetroHealth in 2013. Last year, Dr. Boutros announced his plans to retire at the end of 2022. In September, MetroHealth named Airica Steed, EdD, RN, its next president and CEO. Dr. Steed, who is executive vice president and system COO of Sinai Chicago Health System, will take the helm of MetroHealth Dec. 5, according to Ms. Whiting's statement. Meanwhile, Nabil Chehade, MD, executive vice president and chief clinical transformation officer at MetroHealth, will assume the CEO's duties on an interim basis.

Ms. Whiting said MetroHealth discovered the compensation issues related to Dr. Boutros while preparing for the CEO transition, and an internal investigation took place, led by the Tucker Ellis law firm.

She said Dr. Boutros admitted to conducting self-assessments of his performance under specific metrics he established and authorizing payment to himself of more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses between 2018 and 2022.

According to Ms. Whiting, Dr. Boutros repaid more than $2.1 million in October, representing the supplemental bonus money paid without board approval for performance in calendar years 2017 through 2021, plus more than $124,000 in interest.

She said the board has also implemented immediate CEO spending and hiring limitations through Dec. 31, 2022, and Dr. Boutros has self-reported to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

MetroHealth's internal investigation is ongoing.

Among Dr. Boutros' accomplishments at MetroHealth were helping annual revenue increase from $785 million to more than $1.5 billion; growing the health system's workforce from 6,2000 to nearly 8,000 while seeing employee minimum wage increase to $15 per hour; and developing Ohio's only Ebola treatment center. 

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