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Steven Brill breaks down how much top hospital CEOs make per patient stay

Patrick Fry, CEO of Sutter Health, earned the most, at $6.88 per patient day.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Hospital CEOs netting even just a few dollars in earnings per patient day often haul in considerable salaries, lawyer and journalist Steven Brill claims in new research published in Axios on Tuesday.

To examine the relationship between patient days and executive salary, Brill merged American Hospital Directory data about hospital operations, including patient beds and total patient days, with IRS information on what nonprofit hospitals pay their top brass.

The result is a list of the reported annual payouts to the CEOs of the 20 largest hospital systems, ranked by the number of hospitals in the system, divided by the annual number of patient days recorded at each hospital.

[Also: Physician leadership compensation outpaces CEO pay, survey finds]

In other words, the research shows how much these CEOs got paid for each day a person spends in their hospital.

Patrick Fry, CEO of Sutter Health, earned the most, at $6.88 per patient day. With more than 923,000 patient days at the system, that translated into a salary of roughly $6.35 million.

But the largest salary among the top 20 belonged to Ascension Health CEO Anthony Tersigni, who earned more than $17.5 million. Tersigni actually earns less per patient day than does Fry -- $3.94, to be exact -- but Ascension sees far more patient days, at nearly 4.5 million.

[Also: Healthcare staffing gaps push salaries up for most medical professionals]

The second-highest salary belonged to Lloyd Dean of Dignity Health at $8.06 million ($4.25 per patient day at 1,895,191 patient days), while University of Pittsburgh Medical Center chief Jeffrey Romoff came in third at $6.42 million ($4.99 per patient day,1,286,230 patient days). SSM Health Care CEO William Thompson had the second-highest earnings per patient day at $6.06, and the system's 908,064 patient days made that good for a $5.5 million salary, fourth on the list.

Outside the 20 largest systems, some CEOs earned considerably more per patient day. Norman Roth of Greenwich Hospital netted $56.40 per patient day, though, with just 51,543 patient days at the hospital, that converted into a $2.91 million salary. Thomas Priselac, CEO of cedars Sinai Health System, earned $13.99 per patient day, and the system's 267,790 patient days made that good for $3.75 million in salary.

Brill cautioned that no metric provides a perfect measure for comparing CEO responsibilities.

Twitter: @JELagasse