The president of the Ottawa Hospital earned more than $725,000 in salary and taxable benefits last year, according to the Ontario government's ‘sunshine list.'

The government released the list Wednesday, revealing all public sector employees who earned more than $100,000 in 2009.

Jack Kitts, president and CEO of the Ottawa Hospital, earned $663,566.78 in 2009. His taxable benefits totaled $61,951.62. In 2004, Kitts made $490,000 – that's a 48 per cent increase over five years.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Hospital is struggling to balance its books, laying off nurses and reducing the number of beds to save money.

However, Premier Dalton McGuinty said it's not the government who sets the salaries, it's the local hospital boards.

"This is a matter between hospital boards and their employees," McGuinty said.

However, the board responsible for hiring Kitts defends his salary. Phil Murray, chair of the Ottawa Hospital board, told CTV Ottawa that Kitts is actually underpaid compared to his peers in other cities.

Murray said Kitts accepted a sort of "hometown discount" because he is from the Ottawa area and wants to stay here.

Other hospital executives on the list include:

Bob Roberts
President and CEO of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute
$689,827.07, and $11,735.06 in taxable benefits
Jeffrey Turnbull
Chief of Staff at the Ottawa Hospital
$512,242.53, and $55,311.52 in taxable benefits
Gerald Savoie
President of the Montfort Hospital
$524,328.07, and $6,566.83 in taxable benefits
Tom Schonberg
President and CEO of the Queensway Carleton Hospital
$313,186.10, and $1,769.04 in taxable benefits
Michel Bilodeau
CEO of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
$363,801.06, and $6,742.45 in taxable benefits

The Ontario Nurses' Association calls the salaries "excessive." As the government moves to freeze wages in the public sector, the group says it should also review the salaries of the province's top hospital executives.

Ontario hospitals were given an average 1.5 per cent increase in the provincial budget last week, forcing many hospitals to re-examine their spending.

Most hospitals were hoping for a two per cent increase. By law, Ontario hospitals are not allowed to run a deficit.

OPG tops list

Meanwhile, the top earner in Ontario's public sector remains Jim Hankinson, the former president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation. His 2009 salary and bonus package put him over $2.1 million.

His replacement, Tom Mitchell, managed to pull in more than $1 million since taking the job in July.

Meanwhile, the president of Carleton University and the president of the University of Ottawa both earn about $400,000 a year in salary and taxable benefits.

The premier defended the number of public sector workers who earned more than $100,000 last year, saying there are far more private sector workers who fall within that range.

"We've got to pay people what's fair," McGuinty said.

The government is required by law to disclose the salaries of public sector workers who earn $100,000 or more.

Although the $100,000-limit was set 15 years ago, McGuinty said he's not in favour of raising that number. He said $100,000 is still a lot of money for the average Ontario family.

With files from The Canadian Press