Press Releases

Knute Buehler's Experience: Pay Raises for Adminstrators While Laying Off Front-Line Employees

Oct 15, 2012


Contact: Trent Lutz, Executive Director director [at] dpo [dot] org (503) 239-8625

PORTLAND, Oregon (October 15, 2012) – 

Republican Knute Buehler doesn’t have one minute of relevant experience that makes him qualified to be Oregon’s Secretary of State and oversee all of Oregon’s elections, but he does tout the five years he has served as a board member of Bend’s St. Charles Medical Center.
We decided to look into it – to see what decisions the board has made and what that tells Oregonians about Dr. Buehler’s priorities and ability to lead the state’s Audits Division as Secretary of State.
According to an analysis performed by The Bulletin, the newspaper based in Bend, Oregon, the hospital “invested more heavily in managers or administrative staff in recent years than in those directly involved in patient care.”
Specifically, The Bulletin found and reported in December 2011 that:
“Total administrative salaries at the area's largest health system, which operates three hospitals and several outpatient clinics, grew by about 189 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to an analysis of tax filings done by The Bulletin.”
In comparison:
“Total clinical staff salaries, including the amount spent on nurses, service staff and others involved in patient care, grew by 43 percent in that same period, according to the filings.”
Worse, during the same time period that salaries for those at the top soared, the hospital announced lay-offs in February 2009 of 75 caregivers and reduced hours for another 45 caregivers, citing the need “to improve financial performance.”  
When The Bulletin compared St. Charles with other hospitals in Oregon and southwest Washington, “St. Charles was the only system spending more than 15 percent of its total salaries on administrative positions in 2010.”  
Moroever, an analysis released by ECONorthwest in January 2012 found that St. Charles is not financially troubled: “[St. Charles] is profitable.  Its operating margin over the period January 2009 – August 2011 exceeds the 3 percent threshold that analysts frequently use to evaluate hospitals financial health.”
“Given the facts about St. Charles financial position, these decisions by Knute Buehler and hospital executives are evidence of fiscal malpractice – and do not reflect the kind of leadership Oregonians expect out of their Secretary of State – the person whose job it is to hold government accountable for taxpayers dollars,” said Meredith Wood Smith, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. “Knute Buehler has the wrong priorities and can not be trusted to run the state’s Audits Division.”