With fewer non-coronavirus emergencies, Michigan hospital cuts ER docs’ pay

Beaumont Health, Michigan’s largest health system, has cut thousands of staff this month which it attributes to millions of dollars in losses from focusing on COVID-19 patients.  

Emergency room doctors at Beaumont Health, Michigan's largest hospital system, will see smaller paychecks after volunteering to have their hours reduced amid the pandemic. Their ER counterparts in pediatrics have agreed to take temporary leaves of absences, Detroit Free Press has learned.

The cuts and leaves are a response to the millions of dollars in losses that Beaumont — along with other hospital systems — has sustained in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis that has led to "substantial"  drops in overall emergency visits and elimination of services like elective surgeries.

Beaumont did not provide a number as to exactly how many ER doctors will be affected, but said the safety of emergency patients will not be compromised and that their needs will continue to be met.

"Like other health systems, COVID-19 has forced us to consider staffing changes to our emergency centers because the number of patients seeking emergency care has dramatically declined. That said, at no time will there be an absence of qualified emergency medicine care for our pediatric patients," Beaumont officials said in a letter, obtained by the Free Press, that was sent Monday to all pediatric staff. 

The letter added: "Patients with non-COVID-19-related medical emergencies and trauma including heart attacks, stroke, seizures and injuries should not hesitate to seek emergency medical attention at any of our Beaumont Health emergency centers."

In an email to the Free Press, Beaumont spokesperson Mark Geary said that "some of our regular [emergency] doctors are voluntarily reducing hours because we are seeing a much smaller number of patients" and that some pediatric ER physicians have agreed to take a temporary leave of absence.

Stories from the front  

Bridge Magazine, the Detroit Free Press and Michigan Radio are teaming up to report on Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be sharing accounts of the challenges doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel face as they work to treat patients and save lives. 

If you work in a Michigan hospital, we would love to hear from you. You can contact Robin Erb rerb@bridgemi.comat Bridge, Kristen Jordan Shamus kshamus@freepress.com at the Free Press and Kate Wells katwells@umich.edu at Michigan Radio. 

This latest measure comes one week after Beaumont announced that it was laying off 2,475 workers and will permanently cut about 450 positions because of the financial effects of the pandemic. 

Most of the temporary layoffs involved hospital administrative staff and others who are not directly caring for patients with or without COVID-19. Of the 450 permanent job cuts, most are corporate staff or serving administrative roles.

Beaumont is not alone as multiple hospitals are cutting staff due to the pandemic.

Detroit Medical Center announced last week that it will furlough 480 employees, while the McLaren Medical Group said it will cut the hours of many of its 500 doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives.

Henry Ford Health System also announced deep staff cuts last week: About 2,800 employees are being temporarily furloughed across the Detroit-based, six-hospital system, which saw a $43 million loss in operating income in March.  Those losses came after Henry Ford, like other health systems, postponed or cancelled non-emergency services and procedures.

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Mon, 04/27/2020 - 10:19pm

Great... doctors getting laid off... nurses getting laid off... hospitals going bankrupt... when the shelter-in-place ends and people go out again, America will be a much worse off position than we were the first time. And the virus will still spread to the same number of people. The shut down was to lessen the curve. The Governor needs to suck up her pride and let go of her power, and open this economy. It's not her fault she made a horrible mistake in shutting down the economy like she did- but it is her fault if she continues to stay by it.

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 11:00am

Great perspective. One of the best posts I've seen recently.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 11:32am

But you say that when we reopen we will be in worse shape to handle things when the second wave hits... we already took the economic hit, why not play this out to the end and re-open as safely as possible? Your suggestion is to just let it all go, get hit with a second wave - with already hurt hospitals, and let the cards fall where they may? How exactly will our medical facilities be better off? And how would our economy recover if everyone is sick or afraid? What happens if there is no long-term immunity to covid? Or people get sicker the second time they are exposed, as some people are researching. What don't we know yet?

I think you have to stop making this about Whitmer's ego and more about the virus. The virus has no ego and does not care. There are no simple and neat answers to this problem, no matter what you think you may know about governing.

Wishing good health for everyone.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 3:34pm

We haven't "already taken the economic hit" because our economy is still shut down. Economist Brian Wesbury predicted that basically every month that the economy is shut down, we lose about 5-10 percent of our wealth. Wealth that is used to buy fancy toys for rich people, yes- but also wealth that is used to research and invest in our medical industries and pay for our medical professionals. So we haven't 'taken the economic hit'- the blows keep coming.

And your suggestion that we "play this out to the end" sounds like you are suggesting that we shut down the economy until the virus is gone or a vaccine is discovered. There is no way of knowing when that will happen- estimates range from 6 months to 2 years. If we wait 6 months without restarting the economy like you suggest and we destroy almost all our wealth as a nation and the supply chains collapse and people start starving, and the virus is still around, are you going to argue for another 6 months then?

Look, I understand that fear is a paralyzing force. We know that there are egos involved here. Whitmer has invested in this policy of shutting down our state. But we all know what the end is going to be here- we are going to open up our economy and the healthy will develop a herd immunity while we put whatever resources we can towards protecting the vulnerable and developing a long-term cure. That's what is going to happen- and any delay now is just a costly delay.

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 2:41am

I'm not as afraid as you suggest and I did not say we should stay shut down for two years... those are assumptions.

I've taken an economic hit, my small business already lost 30% of our income. So that hit is real to me and I will not get that money back if we re-open tomorrow. That means our lives are going to change now, not in 2 years.

So rather than me making assumptions...
By not delaying you mean just open it all back up and develop herd immunity?
How do you determine who the healthy are? How do you decide who is allowed to work and who must stay home? What about those people who may not be healthy but have to work because we open things up? how do we protect the vulnerable if everyone in the home goes to school or work? We can just all open things up and let each individual decide but ultimately we will all have to go back work no matter if we are healthy or not. And most people will want to work in some form.

I think if you look to the meat industry as an example of uncontrolled opening - that is not really going so well. Either people are getting sick and dying or people are too afraid to go to work AND the economic toll on their communities is devastating both from the health costs and lost of economic activity.

By playing it out to the end, I meant we need to open up life in sections, carefully, with testing, contact tracing and control of hotspots. We don't even know if we can vaccinate for this yet or form herd immunity. So why not make life work either way by cautiously eliminating it from our society through controls.

As for fear. I am not paralyzed, I am cautious. Fear works both ways here. You fear loss of wealth and I fear loss of life. There is truth there on both sides. And I can safely assume you don't want anyone to die and I don't want to lose everything. So why not be smart and open up carefully and with intent?

Moscow Mitch
Tue, 04/28/2020 - 8:06am

No hospital bailouts; let Michigan file for bankruptcy.