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BC health authority's rescinded pay hikes revealed

Provincial Health Services Authority's vice-president of medical programs was to receive a $10,500 pay raise before the board of directors found out.

According to documents released via Freedom of Information, the $10,499.97 earmarked for Dr. John Tallon was the biggest increase approved by CEO Lynda Cranston on May 17, three days after the BC Liberals won re-election. The remuneration report for the year-ended March 31, 2012 showed Tallon was paid $189,923.

Cranston's unauthorized $660,115.13 in raises for 187 managers contravened last fall's provincial government management and executive pay freeze and forced her to resign at an emergency June 21 PHSA board meeting. Cranston's total pay was $437,735 through March 31, 2013.

Leslie Fisher, the chief operating officer of the B.C. Ambulance Service, was to receive $6,006 on top of his salary, which was $198,804 in 2011-2012. The $5,103.54 earmarked for regional medical director Dr. Stephen Wheeler would have put him over the $300,000 mark. Wheeler's 2011-2012 salary was $295,231.

Rounding out the top five were Information Management/Information Technology manager/architect Jack Michaan ($5,071.95) and corporate director of business planning and financial management Wilfred Wong ($5,100.03). Salaries for Michaan and Wong were $173,264 and $182,037, respectively, in 2011-2012.

Leon Bresler, PHSA's General Legal Counsel and Chief FOI and Privacy Officer, was just outside the top five. His raise was sixth-highest at $4,869.15. During the last fiscal year, Bresler was paid $150,691. Bresler's FOI response said PHSA neither "identified or located" a business case justifying the pay raises.

PHSA, one of the province's six health authorities, runs B.C. Children's Hospital, B.C. Women's Hospital, B.C. Cancer Agency, B.C. Centre for Disease Control and B.C. Ambulance Service.

The board and Health Ministry quietly revealed that $621,000 in raises for 118 people had been quashed in a news release late in the afternoon of June 21 -- a Friday.

PHSA chair Wynne Powell apologized at the time and said he feared Cranston's action "may have let our patients and the people of British Columbia down."

"The board believes processes are now in place that will assist us and the government to ensure that this error does not happen again. Our main goal for PHSA is to put patients first and provide quality care at all times," Powell said.

The full FOI results are available below.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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