Utah's Largest Medical Provider Announces Pay Cuts for Doctors and Nurses Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Utah's largest medical provider is cutting the salaries of physicians and nurse practitioners, claiming they need to be flexible to the "changing needs" created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Intermountain Healthcare told its staff in an email that pay cuts were necessary as the company wasn't bringing in as much revenue due to canceled appointments and nonessential and elective surgeries being postponed.

It was not clear how many of Intermountain Healthcare's 2,400 physicians and advanced practitioners would be affected by the changes. The company describes itself as the largest healthcare provider in the Intermountain West, primarily serving Utah, southern Idaho and southern Nevada.

One advanced practice provider, who did not want to be named, told The Salt Lake Tribune the cuts were a "slap in the face" for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"You're putting your life on the line, and you're being possibly exposed," she told the newspaper.
"Now they're reducing pay with the people who are on the front lines. It's just a slap in the face."

Intermountain Healthcare
Stock photo. The main campus of Intermountain Medical Center, part of Intermountain Healthcare, on September 10, 2018 in Midvale, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images

The company is also not compensating those working directly with coronavirus patients with hazard pay, which one ICU nurse told the newspaper was "absolutely demoralizing."

The pay cuts were revealed to staff in an email that included a link to a video posted by Intermountain Healthcare on YouTube. In the video, Dr. Mark Briesacher, the chief physician executive at Intermountain Healthcare, said: "This is a critical time for physicians to be flexible to the changing needs created by COVID-19."

Dr. Briesacher explained that while some physicians are experiencing "extremely high demand" during the pandemic, others have seen a reduction in work by between 30 and 50 percent.

"Our priority is to help you continue to work and have a stable income," he added. "We're doing that through temporary measures for redeployment and compensation. This will help us meet the needs of our patients, as well as reduce uncertainty for you and your families."

Daron Cowley, a spokesman for Intermountain Healthcare, told Newsweek that no pay cuts have yet taken place, but a "limited" number of physicians and advanced practice providers who experience "significant reductions to their workload" may have their compensation adjusted from June.

"This is a dynamic and challenging environment that changes each day. We are continuously assessing the situation and will revisit our plans regularly," he said.

Cowley added that some employees who are reassigned to areas with high demand will continue to be paid at their current rate. Those who can't be moved will be paid up to four weeks for missed time.

"Intermountain is doing everything possible to keep employees working. One way we're doing this is through redeployment of employees to areas of need," he said.

"If an employee is redeployed to another role, they'll continue to be paid at their current rate. If Intermountain is unable to redeploy an employee to another role, we will provide compensation for work missed due to COVID-19. Compensation of up to four weeks will be paid."

He added that employees can also use their accumulated paid time off to cover other missed work after the four weeks. "If they use all of their PTO, they can go into a negative PTO balance of up to 80 hours. Benefits will not change," he added.

The news comes as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, rose to 806 on Monday, according to the Utah Department of Health. Four deaths have been reported in the state.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by state in the U.S. as of March 31.

This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by state.
This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by state. Statista

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.

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