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CLEVELAND (WJW) — Cuyahoga County councilmembers approved new “safeguards” for tax subsidies headed to MetroHealth, in light of fiscal mismanagement allegations against the hospital system’s former CEO.
The legislative amendment came during Tuesday night’s council meeting, which included work on the county’s biennial operating budget.
“County Council has consistently supported dedicating a substantial amount of Health and Human Service Levy dollars to support MetroHealth in providing critically needed care to indigent patients in Cuyahoga County,” Council President Pernel Jones said Tuesday. “Given the recent allegations about misuse of funds at MetroHealth, however, this Council has a duty to fulfill its oversight responsibilities. The MetroHealth Board of Trustees directly oversees the operations of the hospital, but we also have a duty to ensure county taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately.”
The amendment approved Tuesday ensures the system receives continuous funding through the first quarter of 2023. The council expects a report on the system’s financial health from newly seated CEO Dr. Airica Steed.
Jones said he then expects the system’s full annual distribution for the remainder of 2023 will be approved — “but we will only do so once we are satisfied that county tax dollars are being properly managed,” he said.
MetroHealth gets nearly $32.5 million a year from the county’s $278.9 million in annual Health and Human Services levy revenue. It’s broken into monthly installments, according to council Chief of Staff Joseph Nanni.
The resolution, as written, allows the county fiscal department to disburse pro-rated monthly subsidy payments to the hospital system through March 2023. Further payments would need council approval, it reads. A MetroHealth spokesperson noted the council did not change the system’s levy allocation for 2023.
“We appreciate council’s continued support and understand, especially after recent events, that the members want to meet MetroHealth’s new CEO before fully releasing our 2023 health and human services allocation. And we look forward to introducing them to Dr. Steed and to having her bring them an updated budget presentation in the first quarter of next year,” reads a Wednesday statement from MetroHealth. “This is critical funding not only for MetroHealth but some of our community’s most at-risk families and individuals. We earmark these dollars for the medical bills of Cuyahoga County residents without insurance.”
Hospital executives said former CEO Dr. Akram Boutros improperly authorized $1.9 million in bonuses for himself over four years without disclosing it to the board. The board voted to terminate him last month. Boutros has maintained his firing was retaliation for exposing board misconduct in its push for a new CEO, led by board Chair Vanessa Whiting.
“The MetroHealth System provides critical care to residents throughout Cuyahoga County and is a key provider of health and wellness services to our residents, especially to our most vulnerable residents,” County Executive-elect Chris Ronayne said at the time. “Public institutions like MetroHealth must remain accountable and transparent to the public and I will continue to monitor the situation as more information comes to light.”