Public Comment

Letter from Inside Corporate Medicine

Sunday May 17, 2020 - 08:15:00 PM

Editor's Note: This letter was written by a young physician who works doing primary care with a large hospital corporation. The Planet has agreed to anonymous publication because of the potential for corporate retaliation.

I am up early to try to squeeze in some work before the rest of the household awakens. But I'm taking a break to write this email, because I AM SO ANGRY!

We learned yesterday that all physician salaries are going to be cut "about 10-20%" in the 3rd quarter because [the corporation] has lost 50% of its revenue in the past 3 months because of COVID-19. This will effect everyone, primary care and specialists alike.

Apparently, we "are all in this together", as the staff have already been furloughed, and the executives are all taking a "5-50% pay cut" as well.

I walked into the break room yesterday and one of the phone ladies in our office was crying. She said she'd just learned that furloughs were extending through July, and she's worried because she supports herself (a widow), her mother who has dementia, and her daughter who is addicted to drugs. She's the sole breadwinner for all, and she's worried that she won't be able to provide for them. 

Meanwhile,are the execs who I'm pretty sure make at LEAST 400K a year, "taking one for the team"? No, no they are not.! They're just not going to have as good of a year as usual. Maybe they'll put off buying that vacation home, sell some investments... If they really wanted to care for the poor and vulnerable and ease their way, as is stated in our MISSION, then they would all reduce their salaries to, oh, I don't know, maybe the level of us lowly primary care physicians, like maybe 180K, and sink that extra money into a fund to help our phone ladies and medical assistants and cleaning people FEED THEIR FAMILIES.

If they had asked us doctors to do that--take a pay cut that would directly go to help our staff get paid, I would do that without complaint. It won't be easy, but at least I wouldn't be LIVID about it. But the fact that we're all being asked to take this sacrifice for the health of the corporation we work for is something I cannot bear.

My main professional goal is to build a patient panel that I care for throughout the rest of my lifetime. I hope to watch the babies I see for well child checks now go off to college. I hope to care for my elderly patients throughout the rest of their lives. So it really pains me to say this, but I might want to look for a different job. I came to this organization because I saw it as an opportunity to practice medicine for the underserved equitably. I liked the idea that I would be able to treat Medicaid patients and privately insured patients, and have an institution behind me so that I could provide all these patients with the same level of service. But now that this pandemic has exposed [the employer] as the greedy corporation that is is, albeit cloaked in a cassock of "compassion", it may be time for me to look at county clinic jobs, or sell out completely and work for one of the concierge medicine groups that is always sending out recruiting emails.

Ughhhg. I've got to finish some charts. I'm facing hours of work this weekend, again, because MY patient volume isn't down. Sigh. That's the other really aggravating thing: Physician salaries are going down across the board. My boss says they're going to do it fairly, whatever that means, but the real reason we've lost revenue as an organization is that the specialists, the Derms doing Moh's Surgeries, and the orthopods doing elective knee replacements and such, have been twiddling their thumbs for weeks because of the orders to suspend elective procedures. WELL I'M NOT TWIDDLING MY THUMBS! It's not my fault our bottom line has plummeted. It's the fault of this fee-for-service physician compensation system we're all caught up in. It needs to go down the tubes.