Quantcast
Connect with us

Huge medical staffing company just slashed benefits for doctors and nurses battling COVID-19 outbreak

Published

on

by Isaac Arnsdorf

Emergency room doctors and nurses many of whom are dealing with an onslaught of coronavirus patients and shortages of protective equipment — are now finding out that their compensation is getting cut.

Most ER providers in the U.S. work for staffing companies that have contracts with hospitals. Those staffing companies are losing revenue as hospitals postpone elective procedures and non-coronavirus patients avoid emergency rooms. Health insurers are processing claims more slowly as they adapt to a remote workforce.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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,” Steve Holtzclaw, the CEO of Alteon Health, one of the largest staffing companies, wrote in a memo to employees on Monday.

The memo 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. Holtzclaw indicated that the measures were temporary but didn’t know how long they would last.

“It’s completely demoralizing,” said an Alteon clinician who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “At this time, of all times, we’re putting ourselves at risk but also putting our families at risk.”

Some co-workers are already taking on extra burdens such as living apart from their families to avoid the risk of infecting them, the clinician said. “A lot of sacrifices are being made on the front line that the administration is not seeing because they’re not stepping foot in a hospital,” she said. “I’ve completely lost trust with this company.”

Other employers will soon follow suit, Holtzclaw said, citing conversations with his counterparts across the industry. “You can be assured that similar measures are being contemplated within these organizations and will likely be implemented in the coming weeks,” he wrote.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, another major staffing company for emergency rooms, TeamHealth, said its employees would not be affected. “We are not instituting any reduction in pay or benefits,” TeamHealth said in a statement to 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.”

Alteon and its private-equity backer, Frazier Healthcare Partners, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Private equity investors have increasingly acquired doctors’ practices in recent years, according to a study published in February in JAMA. TeamHealth was bought by Blackstone Group in 2016; another top staffing firm, Envision Healthcare, is owned by KKR. (The staffing companies have also been implicated in the controversy over “surprise billing.”)

ADVERTISEMENT

Hospital operators have also announced cuts. Tenet Healthcare, a Dallas-based publicly traded company that runs 65 hospitals, said it would postpone 401(k) matches and tighten spending on contractors and vendors. Emergency room doctors at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have been told some of their accrued pay is being held back, according to The Boston Globe. More than 1,100 staffers at Atrius Health in Massachusetts are facing reduced paychecks or unpaid furloughs, and raises for medical staff at South Shore Health, another health system in Massachusetts, are being delayed. Several other hospitals have also announced furloughs.

“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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

At Alteon, Holtzclaw wrote that the measures were necessary despite relief available from the $2 trillion stimulus that Congress passed last week. Those provisions include deferring payroll taxes, suspending reimbursement cuts and receiving advance Medicare payments.

Alteon’s pay cut doesn’t affect hourly rates for clinicians, but some of the people characterized as administrative employees are practicing doctors such as medical directors, according to one who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In his case, he said the cut amounts to about $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. “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% less.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The medical director said he understood the company has to cope with lost income, but he wished the leadership had let employees choose among a range of sacrifices that would best suit their individual circumstances.

“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 said. “If a company cannot support physicians during the toughest times, to me there’s a significant question of integrity.”

Claire Perlman and Maryam Jameel contributed reporting.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

‘Awful news for Republican Senate candidates’: Odds of GOP holding Senate collapsing over support for Trump

Published

on

According to an analysis by Politico's Jeff Greenfield, recent voting trends combined with Donald Trump's unpopularity with the electorate will likely see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lose his power following the November election.

First proposing, "It’s a question as obvious as it is critical: How will the trio of crises—the pandemic, the economy, the demands for racial justice—affect the 2020 race for the White House," the columnist said it will be a major factor this election cycle and that is not good news for Republicans.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump campaign trying to spin president’s poll numbers as good news: report

Published

on

President Donald Trump's electoral standing has eroded in recent weeks in the midst of multiple national crises, with his polling average in nearly every swing state trailing former Vice President Joe Biden.

But according to The Daily Beast, the president's campaign is trying to spin this situation as good news.

"Though poll after poll shows the president in a historically bad position for an incumbent in an election year, inside the White House and on the campaign a feeling of relief has begun setting in that it’s not worse," reported Sam Stein and Asawin Suebsaeng. "As they see it, any one of the events of the past few months would have tanked a prior president’s standing. They endured a global pandemic, a historic rise in unemployment, and a sweeping revolt against the criminal justice system in quick succession. And, through it all, many of them feel bruised but politically intact."

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

We are witnessing the birth of a movement — and the downfall of a president

Published

on

They almost always begin to right wrongs: illegitimate wars; decades of discrimination on the grounds of gender or racial or sexual identity; killings of innocents by police or gun-toting lunatics; oppression by governments wielding unequal laws; the deeply embedded legacy of centuries of racism.

This article first appeared in Salon.

They are imperfect. Arising out of rage, they can be unfocused, inchoate, contradictory. Protesting violence, they often involve violence. Protesting oppression, they sometimes oppress by destroying public spaces, small businesses, even entire neighborhoods.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image