Benjie Sanders/Arizona Daily Star 2010

UA Healthcare interim CEO Kevin Burns received a financial package worth about $1.7 million when he left his post last week, the chairman of the UA Healthcare board said.

Under terms of his contract, Burns qualified for two years' base pay plus benefits when he left his position. His annual base pay as interim CEO was $620,000, said Granger Vinall, UA Healthcare board chair.

Burns left his interim post after the job requirements were changed in a reorganization plan this month to require the CEO to have an academic background. The change - part of an ongoing dispute between the regents and state lawmakers - would make Burns ineligible for the job.

UA Healthcare was created July 1 when University Medical Center Corp. merged with University Physicians Healthcare. The $1.2 billion nonprofit company includes about 6,000 employees and two hospitals - University Medical Center and University Physicians Healthcare Hospital at Kino. It is the ninth-largest employer in Southern Arizona, and the largest health-care entity.

At the time of the merger, Burns was CEO of University Medical Center Corp., which operates University Medical Center.

University Physicians Healthcare operates University Physicians Hospital at Kino, on Tucson's south side; manages the University of Arizona College of Medicine's physician-faculty practice; and manages a health plan that directs patients enrolled in Medicaid to various health-care facilities.

Burns' base salary as head of UMC Corp. had been $530,000 per year, according to a contract Burns provided to the Star. The UA Healthcare board had unanimously approved honoring Burns' contract with UMC Corp.

UMC Corp. raised Burns' pay after consulting with a third-party compensation and benefits expert, and the salary is in approximately the 25th percentile when compared to like institutions on a national basis, Vinall said. He said that UA Healthcare board's approved policy is to pay in the 50th percentile, but that Burns requested his pay not be adjusted in the interim.

Tucson Medical Center, which is Tucson's largest hospital and with about 3,000 employees is the 16th-largest employer in Southern Arizona, paid CEO Judy Rich a base salary of $427,234 in 2009, according to the most recent public tax filing available for the organization. Her total compensation that year was $1 million, when an incentive bonus, a one-time retention bonus and other benefits were included, the document says.

Burns took over as CEO of UMC Corp. on Feb. 1, 2010, after the retirement of former CEO Greg Pivirotto, who also had a background in finance. Vinall said he doesn't know the amount of any financial package Pivirotto received when he left the company.

Before taking the CEO job, Burns had been employed since 2002 as UMC's chief financial officer. A certified public accountant, Burns spent 17 years with Arthur Andersen specializing in health-care organizations before joining UMC.

He is one of six top-level UA Healthcare executives who have left since last year's merger.

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at or 573-4134.