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Emergency room doctors and nurses who are putting their personal health at risk to treat coronavirus patients are now seeing their pay, compensation and other benefits being cut as the economic impact from the pandemic is spreading through the medical industry.
Staffing companies that have contracts with hospitals and employ those who work in emergency rooms say the coronavirus has eaten into one of their main sources of revenue: non-essential, elective procedures, which are being postponed nationwide as states are directing facilities to go all-hands-on-deck to fight the growing pandemic.
“Despite the risks our providers are facing, and the great work being done by our teams, the economic challenges brought forth by COVID-19 have not spared our industry,” Alteon Health CEO Steve Holtzclaw wrote in a memo to its employees earlier this week, which was obtained by ProPublica.
The company, which says it employs more than 1,700 clinicians across 16 states and the District of Columbia, reportedly has announced a temporary reduction in hours for clinicians, a 20-percent pay cut for administrative staff and a suspension of 401(k) matches, bonuses and paid time off.
Holtzclaw said in his memo that he isn’t sure for how long the changes will remain in effect, but based on his recent conversations with other health care employers, “you can be assured that similar measures are being contemplated within these organizations and will likely be implemented in the coming weeks,” according to ProPublica.
A medical director who says he is classified as an Alteon Health administrative employee told the website that the cuts, to him, amount to a loss of around $20,000 a year.
“Every day I’m in county and federal emergency meetings. This is besides seeing patients. I’m doing more hands-on work right now than ever before,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I’m getting calls 24/7 from the hospital administration, the county management team. I have not had a day off in over two weeks. And I’m working all this for 20 percent less.”
The director added that he understands Alteon Health’s new economic outlook, but wishes the company let employees choose their sacrifices instead.
“This decision is being made not by physicians but by people who are not on the front lines, who do not have to worry about whether I’m infecting my family or myself,” he told ProPublica. “If a company cannot support physicians during the toughest times, to me there’s a significant question of integrity.”
Alteon Health, which is supported by private equity firm Frazier Healthcare Partners, has not responded to a request for comment from Fox News. But it’s not the only company trimming compensation for hospital staff during the coronavirus outbreak.
In Massachusetts, Atrius Health – a network of more than 1,100 physicians, primary care providers and clinicians – announced that some staff members will have 10 to 25 percent of their pay withheld through the beginning of May, under the expectation they will receive it later, according to The Boston Globe.
The newspaper, citing an internal email from Atrius Health’s CEO, also reported that nonphysicians who are now finding themselves in less demand because of the crisis are being asked to take a one-month unpaid furlough with health benefits.
“Like every healthcare organization here and across the country, we are operating in uncharted waters,” Marci Sindell, Atrius senior vice president of external affairs, told The Boston Globe in a statement. “In light of the realities we face as a result of the drop in routine patient visits and cancellation of elective surgeries, our practice must adapt quickly and decisively to protect our patients and to preserve our mission.”
The newspaper also reported emergency room staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have been informed that some of their accrued pay is being withheld.
“This is at a time when many of us have moved out to live like lepers separate from family to prevent spreading infection, and have already been working huge extra hours trying to scrape together [personal protective equipment] and otherwise brace for COVID-19,” Matt Bivens, an emergency room doctor there, told the Globe.
And Tenet Healthcare, a company that runs 65 hospitals and is headquartered in Dallas, has announced a postponement of 401(k) matches, ProPublica reports.
One company that staffs emergency rooms though said its employees are remaining financially unaffected during the coronavirus outbreak.
“We are not instituting any reduction in pay or benefits,” TeamHealth, which is based in Tennessee and has more than 20,000 affiliated physicians and clinicians, told ProPublica. “This is despite incurring significant cost for staffing in anticipation of surging volumes, costs related to quarantined and sick physicians, and costs for PPE as we work hard to protect our clinicians from the virus.”