Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. ejected a California Nurses Association lawyer from the company's annual shareholders meeting in Nashville, Tenn., last week when he tried to question executives' bonuses.
Nashville lawyer Mark Brooks produced a notarized statement saying he had authorized voting power for the nurses association, which is critical of Columbia and corporate medicine practices.
Brooks was escorted out of the May 9 meeting when he tried to raise a point of order.
"The problem with management of these companies is they think they own these companies. They don't. It's the shareholders," Brooks said in the lobby of the corporate headquarters building before he was thrown out.
Shareholders adopted a proposal to double to 40 million the number of shares available to executives and other employees under the company's stock and incentive plan.
Richard Scott, who added the title of chairman to his duties as president and chief executive officer, was paid $1.6 million in salary and bonuses for 1995. He also received options to buy 125,000 shares of stock, according to Columbia's proxy statement.
"The question we would like to raise is, is the level of executive compensation consistent with the cuts in services?" Brooks said.
Columbia Senior Vice President Victor Campbell said Brooks was ejected from the building after a search of shareholders' lists showed no listing for Brooks or the CNA.
Before he was ejected from the auditorium, Brooks distributed CNA fliers that detailed some hospital closings and layoffs the company had made after buying hospitals in California and Florida.
"Columbia in many ways represents the worst aspects of corporate healthcare. Columbia is buying one new hospital every 10 days nationally," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the CNA, which represents 25,000 registered nurses.
"They know where the profit centers are and close down a lot of hospitals and just keep the most profitable ones."
Campbell declined to comment on the charges except to say that providing the highest quality healthcare at the best possible price sometimes involves consolidation of facilities.