Beth Israel Deaconess cuts ER physician bonuses, makes other cost-saving moves

Emergency room physicians affiliated with Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center were told that their quarterly bonus pay will be withheld, according to The Boston Globe.

The bonus pay, which physicians say is analogous to overtime pay, was slated to be paid out March 30. The bonus money often adds up to tens of thousands of dollars and is paid out to physicians who pick up extra shifts or see more patients in the ER. 

The pay cut is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beth Israel, like many health systems in the U.S., has suspended elective procedures to free up bed space and supplies to treat COVID-19 patients. As a result, the system has lost a large portion of its revenue, according to the report.

The cutbacks have triggered an outcry from physicians and nurses who say they are working grueling shifts and are putting themselves at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. 

"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, MD, an ER doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, Mass., told the Globe. 

Top executives at these healthcare facilities are defending the pay cuts and other cost-saving measures, saying they are not immune to the loss of revenue from the pandemic. 

“The economics of the care we provide has changed quickly and dramatically," Alexa Kimball, MD, CEO of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians group practice at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, wrote in an email obtained by the Globe. "I wish I had better news to convey as I know all of you are making sacrifices every day in all sorts of ways."

The Beth Israel Deaconess-affiliated physicians group announced that it is suspending employer contributions to physicians' retirement plans and will withhold and defer the bonuses scheduled for March 30. 

"We’re human, too," an ER physician from the Beth Israel-affiliated physician group told the Globe. "It's just blow after blow after blow, on top of showing up for work and feeling potentially like I could not come home, too."

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