UBMD Internal Medicine cuts salaries, adds furloughs as outpatient visits drop ‘significantly’

Coronavirus

UBMD internal medicine doctors and their staff found out Thursday that they will see 10% reductions in their pay, while others will be furloughed or see cuts in their work hours.

Anne B. Curtis, who chairs the Department of Medicine with the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, emailed staff Thursday afternoon that the coronavirus has had a major impact on healthcare.

For example, she said the volume of outpatient visits and elective surgeries at all UBMD internal medicine practices “are down substantially.” Specifically, Curtis said outpatient visits are down by 50%.

“The COVID-19 epidemic is the most dangerous and disruptive public health emergency any of us has seen in our lifetimes,” wrote Curtis.

“We know people are scared, for their own health and the health of their friends and loved ones. We also know that many of you are on the front lines caring for patients with the corona virus. We thank you for your service during this difficult time.”

UBMD internal medicine made the following changes effective immediately:

  • All internal care doctors, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will have a 10% reduction in base practice plan salary. Curtis also said she would personally take a 20% reduction.
  • Certain staff will be furloughed, which will maintain their health insurance benefits while they are not working.
  • Other staff will see their hours cut, with a commensurate reduction in salary.

“These changes will remain in place until the corona virus emergency dissipates in our area and all specialties can return to normal operations,” Curtis wrote.

“We do not know how long this situation will last.”

She instructed employees to assume that the reduced volume will persist for as long as 90 days.  

“We will reassess the situation on a regular basis,” she said.

UBMD employs 135 doctors and 187 staff members working at 16 hospitals, including ECMC and Kaleida. UBMD physicians also teach and train medical students.

On Friday, about 30 doctors sent Curtis a letter that criticizes her decision.

“In the most desperate time of need, UBMD has decided to hit one of the most vital components of its organization, the vulnerable doctors on the front lines risking their lives,” the doctors’ letter states.

“At a time where NYS is enlisting thousands of retired healthcare providers and Kaleida is enlisting additional staff with pay to help with the expected influx of patients in the midst of this pandemic, we are being asked to either take a pay cut or voluntarily stay home.

“At a time where other industry CEOs are taking 50% pay cuts or forgoing entire salaries in order to keep their staff employed, our leader only takes 20% of a practice plan pay cut with state lines intact.”

Curtis said in a statement late Friday that the community has seen rapid growth of coronavirus cases, but the “pandemic’s effects on patient volume started in the beginning of March with the increased awareness in our community.”

“We responded to this new reality by temporarily furloughing less than 10% of our workforce and temporarily decreasing salaries,” Curtis said. (Update 3/28/2020: UBMD now says that roughly 5 percent of team members will be affected by the furloughs).

“Our plan instituted a temporary pay decrease as a way to avoid having to furlough our team members more than absolutely necessary. Our team members are essential to our long-term care of our patients and we will welcome them back when the COVID-19 crisis ends.”

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