THE BLOG
07/19/2010 07:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

So You Want to Be a Millionaire? Run a Community Health Center!

Made sense to me that the guys on Wall Street were walking the "Hall of Shame" as they were pocketing bonuses from a bigger than ever profit year at the end of '09. But who would ever think that you could also make the big bucks running a community health center?

I am quite sure that one doesn't think of the staff at community health clinics, as raking it in. In fact, most staff across the board at community clinics, hospitals, any health care providers, have had to take major cuts and take lower salaries over the last few years. But hey, if everyone is suffering, it can take the sting out of that smaller take home check, right? Well, not so, as it turns out.

I discovered this 'little factoid' about a Manhattan CEO of the William F. Ryan Community Health Center, in a totally random manner. Believe me, I am not some cub investigative reporter!

The other week while at a friend's country house upstate, I happened upon a local paper, The Albany Times Union. Leafing through it, a headline caught my eye: "High CEO Pay Eyed, State Data Reveals Salaries, Perks at Mental Health Agencies," by Rick Karlin.

Hmm, I thought, who knew anyone could get 'perks' working at a mental health agency? I know plenty of colleagues who work at these institutions, and believe me, they are not in it for the 'perks.' According to the state's Commission on Quality of Care, a watchdog agency that released a report on upstate centers, there was a "wide menu" of perks including "several retirement plans, restaurant bills in the triple digits and deluxe bottles of wine."

More pertinent to us here in Manhattan: "The highest paid CEO in 2006, Barbra Minch at Manhattan's William F. Ryan Community Health Center, made more than $1 million, according to the survey."

The William F. Ryan Community Center has several facilities on the Upper West Side, one large clinic in the Chelsea-Clinton area and some satellites. My daughters' middle school is staffed by William F. Ryan nurses, and I have had the pleasure of dealing with fantastic, professional staff there. I was thrilled to see the that William F. was opening another clinic just a few blocks from my office; always glad to have good places to refer to.

But this piece of business seemed outrageous to me. A million dollar payout to Barbra Minch while her staff is taking lower salaries than their counterparts who work in large metropolitan hospitals? Right, because community health simply 'doesn't have the same money,' right? Do they have the money or don't they? And how do they have it? How did they have it to pay Ms. Minch that million dollars, I wondered. I had to Google.

This may not be where they found the cash, but it turns out that William F. Ryan is not so 'kosher' in their bookkeeping. So much so, that a final audit report issued by the State of New York Office of the Medicaid Inspector General to William F. Ryan, on June 4, 2010, basically states that William F. Ryan was overpaid by almost a million bucks. ($988,505.00 to be exact.) They are getting off easy: "This audit may be settled through repayment of the lower confidence limit of $619,585.00," the final audit report states. Lucky Minch, I think. She will still get to keep her million dollar payout while yet again, staff will be stiffed and expected to take lower salaries and no increases.

You know, I expect that those guys on Wall Street will get their bonuses. They are in it to make millions. But CEOs of community health agencies whose bottom lines are so low and who expect their staff to take lower salaries and pay cuts?

As Seth and Amy say: "Really? Really?!!!"