By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)– Top executives at Denver Health Medical Center received significant bonuses this month for their performance in 2019, ranging from $50,000 up to $230,000, one week after frontline hospital workers were asked to voluntarily take leave without pay or reduce their hours as the hospital dealt with the financial downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

(credit: Denver Health Paramedics/Facebook)

On April 3, Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein emailed hospital workers noting “the current situation will stress us financially.”

She announced a hiring freeze and asked employees to voluntarily take leave without pay, use personal time off or reduce their normal work week.

“The goal is to reduce our total salary expense without the need to lay off employees or implement mandatory PTO/furloughs,” wrote Wittenstein.

She said the hospital was also considering mandating workers to use their paid time off, mandatory leave without pay and other steps.

“The goal is to avoid these extreme measures if at all possible,” she wrote.

RELATED: Denver Councilman Calls Hospital Bonuses ‘Disgraceful’ | Denver Health CEO ‘Deeply Sorry’ Over Timing Of Bonuses

One week later, on April 10, Wittenstein and her executive staff saw their 2019 Management Incentive Plan bonuses deposited into their bank accounts. They had been notified in late March that this would occur.

CBS4 obtained salary and bonus information for a dozen top executives at Denver Health via a Colorado Open Records Act Request which was filed April 10. It showed the following MIP bonuses were handed out:

  • Robert Borland, Chief Marketing and PR Officer received a $53,406 bonus added to his $270,000 salary, equating to a 19.78% bonus.
  • Scott Hoye, General Counsel, received a $78,174 bonus added to his $402,300 salary for a 19.43% bonus.
  • Michelle Fournier-Johnson, Chief Human Resources Officer, received a $65,012 bonus on top of her salary of $347,800 for an 18.69% bonus.
  • Connie Price, Chief Medical Officer, received a bonus of $95,792 added to her salary of $507,200 for an 18.88% bonus.
  • Amy Weiss, Chief Experience Officer, received a bonus of $40,588 added to her salary of $221,800 for an 18.29% bonus.
  • Wittenstein’s base salary for 2019 was $967,155, her bonus was $230,275 — which equates to 23.8% of her salary. She said her performance bonus is set by the Denver Health Authority board of directors and that the executive bonuses end up putting Denver Health administrators squarely in the middle of compensation for health and hospital executives.

“We want to try to pay people fairly,” said Wittenstein. ”Those incentives are what keeps people at the midpoint of the compensation range,” she said, as compared to colleagues around the country.

(credit: CBS)

She said without the bonus payments, Denver Health executives would be paid less than the average for their counterparts nationwide.

Others receiving bonuses of 17% to 19% included:

  • Gregory McCarthy, Executive Director of Managed Care who was awarded $58,308 on top of his salary of $304,800.
  • Peggy Burnettte, Chief Financial Officer, who received a bonus of $93,666 in addition to her $530,600 annual salary.

Wittenstein said, “The compensation approach we use is consistent for every employee in the organization.”

Eleven days after asking broader hospital staff to voluntarily tighten their belts, and four days after CBS4 filed the request for information about the bonuses, Wittenstein emailed her executive staff members urging them to voluntarily give something back, suggesting they might waive accrual of personal time off for three months, take unpaid time off or make a cash donation to the Denver Health Foundation to support Denver Health operations.

“Right now, we have staff from across the organization who are feeling like they are being asked to take PTO, low census and furlough and they are looking to leadership to ensure we are also impacted by the pandemic. It would certainly send quite a message if we could report commitment by leadership to these actions, as a group,” wrote Wittenstein.

She told CBS4 that all of her executive staff agreed to at least one of the suggestions.

“So every single member of our leadership team, 100%, is making a contribution,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

The hospital CEO said as of April 20, she was waiving her own accrual of paid time off, giving back two days every pay period from her personal time off bank, and was also using her accrued PTO to cover three days every pay period, saving the organization money. She said she planned to do that for a three-month time frame. Additionally, Wittenstein said several months ago she and her husband pledged a $100,000 donation to the Denver Health Foundation to be used to help hospital employees.

She said the hospital posted an operating loss in March and she expects more operating losses for the foreseeable future.

Since the bonus payments are partially predicated on the financial health of the hospital, she said she was unsure if executives would collect bonuses for the 2020 calendar year.

Denver Health treats about 930,000 patients per year and has about 7,000 employees.

Brian Maass

Comments (44)
  1. Marie says:

    How disappointing to balance financial issues on the backs of staff. The administrators should be embarrassed….but am sure they figure all the hoopla will blow over. Seems like a BIG housecleaning is needed at DH. Where are the gate-keepers? Stuff like this begs for unionization.

  2. Matt says:

    This isn’t the first time this has happened at DH. When Art Gonzales took over he laid off a ton of employees but somehow found a way to have DH pay, with Board approval, for a sound proof room full of equipment for his band to practice. Including the construction costs of the room. This is not how DH used to operate, and it’s the main reason why the organization has lost so many of the employees who believed in the mission.

  3. Thom Butler says:

    Actual garbage excuse.

    Put the executives on the front line, helping the workers, and let them earn their bonuses. Or return them. Anything else is just talk.

    1. nicenurse says:

      Egregious decision. You can see the guilt in the face of the CEO’s picture in the article. These executives need to be placed on the front lines to help their staff to EARN their bonuses, or return them to be distributed among clinical staff to maintain their baseline salaries.

  4. Robbie Daniels says:

    This same reason is why one of the largest healthcare entities is failing and getting ready to file bankruptcy! CHS (Community Health Systems) gave us a .03 cent increase one year while the CEO made a 17 million dollar bonus! That was in addition to his 18 million salary he already made! HE IS STILL CEO!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Rpryor says:

    This is one reason the US healthcare system is in trouble. 31 to 34 precent of US healthcare dollars are spent on administration costs. Much much higher than other developed countries and look at the outcome of the pandemic. Multiple healthcare systems in the same location with each having there own highly paid executive staff is ridiculously redundent and wasteful.

    Its time for some sort of nationalized/regional healthcare system that can address this waste of dollars that leads to diminished care for the population.

  6. BC says:


  7. deborah doolin says:

    These “executives” should be ashamed of themselves. What happened to We Are
    all in this Together?

    1. Morgan S says:

      You should know the answer to that Deborah. I can count how many times I’ve seen any hospital executives on the floor since the beginning of the pandemic.

  8. Karen says:

    There salaries should be divided up among the employees on the front line. Who in their right mind authorized their salaries. How is it that they are making more than the Mayor and Governor? I am angry that these executives are trying to justify their salaries by saying that they are making concessions in other ways. They do not bring business into the hospital. It is a public health facility where people automatically come when they can’t afford to go anywhere else. How do these individuals sleep at night. I believe that the Mayor and/or Governor should open an investigation and these executives should be forced to return the bonuses and their salaries should be cut in half. Even lawyers that are partners in a law firm do not get paid this type of money, unless they are bringing in a lot of business. This so unacceptable!!!!!

  9. John Doe says:

    If you think this is ridiculous, please sign this petition!!

    1. SW says:

      John Doe, can you please expand this to include MDs? We get paid well below the average, as well. We can increase support for this cause if you expand it. Thank you!

  10. AP says:

    Shameful, just plain shameful! But keep in mind, it’s the Board of Directors who approve these Bonuses. I think we should start there with the investigations. I’m so very sorry for my former co-workers :-(

  11. Bonnie MacLeod says:

    I am appalled. Where is the oversight on this, The state of Colorado needs to step up and protect the front line workers. The same people that put themselves in jeopardy, along with family members,
    Are we all in this together?

  12. Tom Watson says:

    BTW the hospital does offer an employee relief fund…as a loan with 36% interest! How is everyone else in the world praising and acknowledging the frontline healthcare workers and yet this hospital is robbing them while they also expect them to risk their lives?!

  13. 8oneanddones says:

    They always use the excuse about having to pay ‘market’ rate to attract the best talent. How about we finally admit that the ‘market’ rate has been inflated and needs to be brought back to earth. America has the most wasteful health carer system in the world, and this great reporting puts a face on it.

    What exactly does the ‘Chief Experience Officer’ do to justify a quarter million dollar salary?

    1. JJ says:

      This company hasn’t had a “market adjustment” for about 5 years. This year, apparently only certain employees in many departments, not just the hospital, were chosen to get the “market adjustment.” No one was told anything about this decision, or on how certain employees were chosen for it. Denver Health employees only get at least 2% maybe up to 3% raise a year,and that is based of your management reviewing everything about you, even though they are rarely there during any shift change to interact with their staff. It’s sad to really think that i have worked for this company for almost 4 years and STILL have not reached a full dollar amount from my base pay with all my raises put together. I’ts almost disgusting.

  14. SJ says:

    Sounds like RJ might be one of the executives.

  15. The Noticer says:


  16. TM says:

    One day, the doctors, nurses, PAs, and the rest of the clinical workforce will realize that a hospital can’t function without them, but a hospital can function without administrators. Don’t forget- hospitals functioned well without armies of administrators for centuries! Where is the added value? #CutThemOut

  17. Peter Donello says:

    when you hear the excuse “All the other health companies are doing it”, it makes you want to check and make sure you aren’t talking to a 6 year old.

  18. tj miller says:

    funny that they get 17-19% increases the average employee @ DHHA only gets a 2% increase at most per yearly evaluation.

  19. Barb says:

    Shameful! So many are doing the right thing, but those who are closest to the suffering are blind to it. Maybe they could learn a lesson here “Kent Taylor, the co-founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse Inc., will be giving up his bonus and base salary this year to pay his chain’s workers during the coronavirus pandemic.”

  20. TS says:

    I was “asked” to take a 12.5 or 15% pay cut and if I didn’t agree, I would be set up to meet with the ceo and then I could discuss with her why I wasn’t being a team player…….

  21. Michelle says:

    This is despicable! Let them eat cake, right?! No healthcare for us. No protection for workers. But big bonuses for these yahoos! We need a revolution!

  22. Cathy Naftzger says:

    Wake up Colorado! These health administrators have 1/4 of the education than most physicians and nurses have. There are so few private practices left in this state thanks to the grubby money hungry administrators and “executives” in the healthcare industry. They obtain the best insurance rates and buy the drugs the cheapest so that private docs can not compete. Now, during this stressful time in our nation and the world they continue to be greedy and self centered. Truly it does not seem to me that they are there to support the patient community or the healthcare working community. They have turned our hospitals into money printing factories that they use to pad their own bank accounts. I am probably wrong but, is Denver Health run or managed by CU Heath? That would be our state taxes?!? Pay our healthcare workers and put our sick ahead of your paychecks that you really only deserve 1/4 of. Go to med school and nursing school if you want to make a real difference. Thank you American Healthcare workers!!! You deserve so much more!

  23. Paula Koval says:

    Let them suffer at home if they get the virus. Karma. Works. They are among the greediest, least redeemable people I have seen.

  24. AIM says:

    I feel everyone should demand that the Governor and the Mayor of Denver should investigate these people. While so many in the country are hungry, can’t pay their rent and are out of work to think that they should have these HUGE bonuses is deplorable. Then to top it off they feel it is right to ask the employees of the hospital to take cuts etc. is truly unbelievable.
    What has this country come to when GREED is rampant, we are seeing it at every turn.

  25. Thomas says:

    These executives are monsters.

  26. tj says:

    You should do a statewide CORA request on executive leader pay, those make six figures for the state are getting raises while none of the workers are. The administrative budgets at certain agencies are outrageous. CORA discretionary raises for the past two months!

  27. How about you start at the TOP!

  28. Willie Trujillo says:

    As I stated, rich get richer poor get poorer

  29. Sam says:

    It’s even more egregious then what the article suggests. The CEO didn’t ask people to “voluntarily” contribute. It was a directive. And at no time has the CEO been transparent about what she personally is contributing. The only reason this came out is because this channel forced it.

  30. Cindy says:

    Every day Colorado residents, media express that our healthcare and essential workers are heroes. How many people in a good year get a 18-22% bonus or pay raise? Everyone is sacrificing–do you want these selfish Administrators heading up our hospital? Let them take care of people in the ER or clean the hospital and see what our “heroes” do for everyone.

  31. SM says:

    Denver Health just announced that they have raised over $1 million in COVID-19 relief from community donations. I’m sure the donors didn’t know that their money would be going into the pockets of hospital EXECUTIVES instead of struggling employees and patients. Sure they can say the money is going to be used for patients. But they will be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  32. Ellis says:

    Very classy work during a pandemic, to cut the pay of the people who are literally risking their lives while giving HUGE bonuses to the ones working safely up in an office.
    The classy thing for the hospital officers to have done would have been to all donate half their bonuses and distribute the money as bonuses to the people who make their huge salaries possible. Not just medical staff, but cleaning people and food workers ang guards, everyone. This is at best tone-deaf to what’s going on in the world outside their bubble, but I bet the majority of people would see it as selfish to the point of evil. (I bet RJ works for them)

  33. Rick Mortemer says:

    This article is not up to date. Employees have already been FORCED, not asked, to take PTO and leave without pay. This is not a choice. Others have been furloughed. During normal years, employees already get paid below the national average at Denver Health and certainly below other hospital systems in the Denver Metro Area. Thank you for shedding light on this issue. There are many people at Denver Health who have been wanting to speak out for years.

  34. RJ says:

    As our country deals with this threat, CBS chooses to do a hack article, with little thought, on Denver Health, the most important medical system in Denver, creating potential anger vs. unification, just to get clicks. Like I said, real classy.

    1. TD says:

      RJ, this is not a hack article. In fact, I am sure many Denver Health employees can tell you that they are unsafe and unhappy with the situation. Do you not care that people putting their lives at risk for the community are now being MANDATED to take a pay cut? How do I know? Because I work there. It says a lot when a I make 1/20th the income of the execs and then I’m told that my hours and pay are getting cut. Do you realize the amount of stress this puts on people? I hope you do, because Denver Health execs don’t.

    2. Steve says:

      Why is Denver Health so “important”?

  35. Don Guizzetti says:

    Wittenstein must have paid a visit to the ER after experiencing an acute contortion of logic and severe moral contusions and abrasions after explaining the bonuses. Her contribution was equivalent to giving employees the slice of cheese off her triple Big Mac. Maybe she ran out of cake.

  36. JB says:

    Very shocked and outraged by the bonuses to these VERY well-paid administrators. Their bonuses are more than many of their health care employees make all year. How selfish of these people. Thank you for telling us. They are evil, in my book.

  37. RJ says:

    Very classy work during a pandemic, way to create a potential dark cloud over the most important medical facility in Denver.

    1. Chupacabra says:

      RJ, the only dark cloud here was created by the top executives. You cannot spin this positively no matter how hard you try. Fact of the matter is the top executives are feeding from the gravy train taking HUGE bonuses while furloughing/laying off/cutting pay to the workers who are saving lives. Some of these bonuses alone are more than the workers make in a year. Completely unacceptable.

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