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TGH leaders leaving with $1-million

The former president's contract "was a done deal," says one board member, which the board inherited when the hospital went private.

By DAVID KARP

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000


TAMPA -- Tampa General Hospital will pay former president Bruce Siegel and his executive vice president more than $1-million to get them to leave the financially strapped hospital, which lost more than $30-million under Siegel's leadership.

The private board that runs Tampa General voted Tuesday to approve severance agreements for Siegel and former executive vice president Shirley Gamble, who left their posts in February after the board lost confidence in them.

Unless he finds a new job, Siegel will get about $692,000, which includes two years of his annual salary of $335,000, auto and executive allowances of $10,800 a year, plus unusued vacation time. The hospital will pay Siegel each month for two years or until he finds a new job.

Gamble will get about $500,000, equal to 19 months of her salary, in one payment, plus an unknown amount of vacation and sick time.

"I think it's disgusting," Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt said Tuesday. "In light of the losses of the hospital, how in the world could they get a million dollars?"

As the board approved the buyouts at a closed-door meeting Tuesday, former Gov. Bob Martinez was in Tallahassee for the local Chamber of Commerce trying to persuade lawmakers to give TGH millions in taxpayer dollars.

If the Legislature does not help, TGH could lose as much as $21-million this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. A New York bond insurer would then force the hospital to bring in a consultant to consider drastic cuts in medical services.

The hospital board members said Siegel and Gamble wanted more. Both had retained attorneys to negotiate the severance deals.

Siegel, 39, declined to comment Tuesday, and Gamble, who was out of town, could not be reached.

TGH board members said they refused to give Siegel or Gamble anything more than their employment contracts already allowed.

"I don't think anyone on the board believes any individual should receive extra compensation given the condition of the hospital," board member Jeremy Ross said.

The publicly appointed hospital authority had set the severance agreement in 1996 when they hired Siegel, then a rising star who had run New York City's public hospital system.

Authority members at the time praised Siegel's savvy for negotiating his $335,000 salary and lucrative severance deal. Only three of the 14 authority members objected to the terms.

Siegel promised to move the 877-bed hospital on Davis Islands to the University of South Florida and turn a profit within a few years. Instead, rising medical costs and decreased revenues from federal cutbacks caused TGH's finances to spiral downward, Siegel has said.

Board members who run TGH today say they had to accept Siegel's contract, which they inherited when the hospital converted from a public facility to a private non-profit in 1997.

" "It was a done deal," said board member Lizabeth Moody. "There was not anything we could do about it. Think of basketball players, football players and CEOs of corporations. They all seem to make a lot of money."

Siegel negotiated Gamble's contract and severance deal when he hired her after TGH's privatization. Board members said they never saw Gamble's contract, and did not know about it until she stepped down in February.

"None of us knew anything about it," Moody said.

Moody said the board has created a compensation committee to review any future salaries and severance deals.

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