Union leads protest about executive pay at HMA shareholders meeting
As about three dozen shareholders heard and viewed a presentation on HMA’s finances, 10 protesters from SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a union representing 30,000 current and retired health-care workers, stood on Airport-Pulling Road, just north of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort off Vanderbilt Beach Road, and waved signs at motorists.
“HMA: We’re not just $$$,” one sign read, while others decried the way the publicly traded company determines its top executives’ pay. Other signs said: “Wrong way, HMA” and “Hey, HMA. We weren’t born yesterday.”
The protest came after the group staged a media blitz that began late last week, when it sent emails and began airing commercials on local radio stations that increased in frequency Tuesday. They contended HMA places profits over patient care, saying: “HMA, we’re not widgets in a factory. We’re patients in a hospital.”
Inside the meeting room, two shareholders asked questions during a roughly 75-minute presentation. They were union members who had purchased one share of stock so they could attend the meeting, which wasn’t open to the media.
Union member Alvin Truttling, 78, of Punta Gorda, a retired New York lab supervisor, said he and another union member signed in, but HMA’s lawyer told them to leave and allowed only two union members to speak for five to 10 minutes.
Although William Schoen, chairman of HMA’s board of directors, assured them quality was HMA’s goal, Truttling denied that based on his personal experience at an HMA-managed hospital in Port Charlotte.
“We will not just accept a smile and a bed without quality of service,” Truttling said, adding that residents shouldn’t have to travel to Lee Memorial, Miami or Orlando for quality care. “There’s no shortage of sick people in Florida, so there’s no reason for the actions they take, other than greed.”
HMA’s vice president of financial relations, John Merriwether, spoke to reporters after the meeting and denied the union’s contentions, saying executive pay is based on providing quality health-care.
“To imply that we don’t take quality as seriously as we should, that’s not fair,” Merriwether said. “… If you don’t provide good quality care, you won’t have good financial performance.”
“I don’t think you can find a company that focuses more on patient care than HMA,” he added. “… It’s all about patient quality.”
Shareholder John D. Schmahmann of Bonita Springs came armed with an article from a hospital review publication that detailed HMA executive raises listed in its U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
The article showed HMA Chief Executive Officer Gary Newsome’s pay rose 11.3 percent to $7.11 million last year, including incentives, stock awards, bonuses and $941,667 base salary, which was $900,000 in 2010.
“I think they’re spending too much money,” Schmahmann said of HMA, adding, “They were overcompensated.”
Naples-based Health Management Associates Inc. was the target of a protest by about a dozen people when it held its annual shareholders meeting Tuesday in North Naples.
Inside the meeting room at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort off Vanderbilt Beach Road, a couple of speakers questioned the hospital chain’s executive compensation.
Outside the resort, along Airport-Pulling Road, a protest was organized by a health-care union that takes issue with the way the company determines pay for its top executives — based on the publicly traded company’s profits.
The union, SEIU United Healthcare Workers, bought some stock shares so it could have its members speak about executive compensation at the shareholders meeting.
About 10 protesters gathered along the road with signs such as “HMA: We’re not just $$$” and “Wrong Way HMA.”
Inside the meeting, two protesters spoke about HMA’s operations, those attending the session said.
Shareholder John D. Schmahmann of Bonita Springs was one of those who took HMA to task.
“I think they’re spending way too much,” he said, carrying an article from a hospital review publication that detailed HMA executive raises. “They were overcompensated.”
John Merriwether, the vice president of financial relations, spoke to reporters after the session and called it a normal shareholders meeting.
“There were just two shareholders who asked questions. They were normal shareholder questions,” Merriwether said, declining to reveal what was asked inside the meeting room, which wasn’t open to the media.
“I don’t think you can find a company that focuses more on patient care than HMA … it’s all about patient quality,” he said.