Monterey County Herald Editors: Downing’s retirement too much at bad time

April 29th, 2011

By The Monterey County Herald Editorial Board:

The board at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System has hacked away at its expenses, cutting annual costs by more than $25 million.

We can’t argue that operational reductions are probably in order at the hospital. We’ve all suffered under the cruel crush of the economy. We’ve all had to make sacrifices.

Unfortunately, the notable exception to the pain and suffering can be found at the top of the hospital’s food chain.

President and CEO Sam Downing is departing the public district hospital this week with a retirement payment of nearly $900,000, in addition to his regular annual pension of $150,000. When he turned retirement age two years ago, Downing received a retirement payment of $3million.

But a retirement benefit of almost $4million is much too generous, and certainly not reasonable, particularly at a time when layoff notices are flying around the hospital like aspirin and plastic bedpans.

From a public relations standpoint, the timing of his cash-in couldn’t be worse.

And it has to be a bitter pill to swallow for the good and loyal employees at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital who are being asked to accept the layoffs while the survivors are being asked to dig into their pockets to pay for their health care.