Disposable, Replaceable Doctors

Certainly, none of us are surprised by this, are we?  While health care CEO’s hide in their well-stocked bunkers  the same people who always do the work, put up with annually added, idiotic mandates and constraints on their abilities, show up…and do all the work again.  

Most ER’s are staffed by companies that contract with hospitals, and those latter two entities are losing money due to the suspension of elective medical work.  While the nation goes through a great viral clench and millions are out of work, the doctors and nurses expected to deal with all of this are often working harder…and now for less.

Alteon Health announced “that the company would be reducing hours for clinicians, cutting pay for administrative employees by 20%, and suspending 401(k) matches, bonuses and paid time off… [indicating] that the measures were temporary but didn’t know how long they would last.”

The company is changing their physicians to an hourly rate, and expects to start cutting hours. 

Emergency staffing company TeamHealth, “said its employees would not be affected. ‘We are not instituting any reduction in pay or benefits.  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.’”  (TeamHealth certainly worked hard in canning employee Dr. Ming Lin for criticizing their customer hospital PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center over not having adequate screening and PPE support available).

Other hospital systems are starting to suspend retirement benefits, or short employed physicians accrued pay, citing hard times throughout the health system.  While I realize that the small retailor facing bankruptcy over this panic will have little sympathy for an employed doctor not keeping up with his 401K contributions, that same individual expects that physician to ready, willing, and available if he gets sick, whatever the contagious risks.  I might even understand the corporate concerns to a point, if I thought the rest of the hierarchy was taking a haircut.  Are your frontline people really the ones you want trim?

Of course, the answer is “yes.”  It’s sad to read, “’We all feel pretty crestfallen,’ another ER doctor employed by Alteon said in a text message. ‘I did expect support from our administrators, and this certainly doesn’t feel like that.’”  In this age of core measures and Press Ganey scores, why would any physician ever think any health corporation would have their back?

The truth is that physicians are still seen, and will be viewed after this upheaval, as commodities, disposable and replaceable.  Those who own their own practices might mitigate it somewhat, but only DPC docs will be truly immune.  The rest of us should eschew expectations.

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