Are You, Physicians, Finally Realizing That You Are Not Untouchable?

ProPublica does it again. It shows the filthy side of healthcare. As the pandemic grows, patients and healthcare workers fall victim to the deadly virus, administrators do what they are good at. Cut hours and wages. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the complexity of running a business. I run a medical practice, but it’s the lack of preparation that irks me. 

Like me, if you work for an Emergency Room, you know that most ER providers are staffed by companies that contract with hospitals. One of the largest contractors, Alteon Health, recently announced that it would be reducing hours for clinicians, cutting pay for administrative employees by 20%, and suspending 401(k) matches, bonuses and paid time off. Though they claim these to be temporary measures, are they really? If this pandemic is proving anything, its proving how much of care is unnecessary in this country. Its showing us, how important primary care (this obviously translates to Telemedicine) is and what it can do when utilized in a strategic way. Not only are the the salaries being cut, but employees are being forced to be convert to low hourly rates, and getting their hours cut. Others are being furloughed entirely. 

Some staffing companies, like TeamHealth will not institute any reduction in pay or benefits. But for how long will they be able to keep up? Either they must adapt, or they will risk continuing profit losses, and which can only be absorbed for so long. 

Urgent Cares on the other hand are doing a better job adapting. MedExpress, owned by Optum, are innovating, and evolving with the times. They have jumped into Telemedicine and are continuing to assure their profit losses are not significant and are trying to turn profits. But, how can emergency rooms get involved in Telemedicine? Is there truly a way for Emergency departments to adapt? 

The list of losses goes on: Tenet Healthcare, a Dallas-based company has postponed 401(k) matches: I’d take that instead of a pay cut. Wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, others, such as Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is holding back accrued pay for healthcare providers. The list of hospitals performing such disservice to their employees are endless. 

One can say, this could not have been seen by anyone. Of course, why should it have been? Hospitals and large systems focus on profit, and profit only. They know they can sacrifice and replace the front-line workers when necessary and that is exactly what’s happening.

Finally, Physicians are realizing they must unionize. How much of a difference do you think that will make? We know this won’t happen anytime soon. Healthcare providers are realizing their vulnerability. Perhaps there will be some good that comes out of this. Only time will tell.

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7 Responses

  1. arf says:

    Physicians in the Multicare system unionized. Multicare is a multi-hospital, multi-clinic big box that started in Tacoma, and the south suburbs of Seattle. They have metastasized to Spokane as well. For all I know other areas as well. Anyway, the docs had had enough, and joined UAPD. I don’t know if it’s all Multicare employed physicians, or some subset.
    They are affiliated with AFSCME and AFL-CIO.
    Do unions “work” for physicians? I guess you have one example to follow, and see how it’s working out for them. They unionized in late 2016, so a few years of experience.

  2. Bill Ameen MD says:

    As a aged-out (and relatively happy) retiree, I can only shake my head in wonderment at what my colleagues in emergency medicine and family practice (I was double-boarded) are going through, and how shabbily they are being treated. The AMA should have been the union that stands up for doctors, but they appear to be aging and toothless (they’ve finally elected their third female president in a row now that more than half of all Med students are female!). Whatever happened to Dr. Jane Orient’s group…was it the AAPS? They lost credibility by apparently embracing some conspiracy theories years ago. So maybe the below-40-year-old docs on the firing line will, after this pandemic ebbs, form a union. Sadly, i’m not holding my breath.

    • Pat says:

      Don’t unionize, and the government and Big Insurance will collaborate to accelerate their abuse of physicians. Do unionize, and the individual will be lost in deals made with the big powers.

      No physician group has ever focused their efforts solely on divesting from third party payers, and now that chance is probably gone. We are so screwed.

  3. arthur gindin says:

    UNIONS are ALWAYS a BAD idea, unless you agree with the HERD mentality.

  4. Celia B Entwistle MD says:

    Unionize! we can at least get rid of bad contracts and make mid-levels/APPs providing unsupervised services meet medical board criteria (this primarily applies to NP’s). I’m retiring in the next few years, but I would pay some dues! And we should advocate for all the medical school graduates who cannot match for post-graduate training and are stuck doing nothing, while lessor trained individuals see patients.

  5. arthur gindin says:

    Salaries are always a negotiable item. The market depends on it.

  6. See 3 million strong, including 70,000 physicians who are standing up for physicians and patients. Sign our petition here:

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