In an email sent Friday to doctors, nurses, and other employees of Partners HealthCare, the largest health care system in Massachusetts, the CEO of the company informed them they would not be receiving hazard or crisis pay for dealing with coronavirus cases, Mother Jones reports.
Partners HealthCare’s president and chief executive officer Dr. Anne Klibanski, who makes up to $6 million a year, opened her “Dear Colleagues” note, which was obtained by Mother Jones, with an expression of “gratitude to all of you for providing exceptional patient care and for supporting each other and the community during these unprecedented times.” Klibanski said she and the company’s leadership team appreciated the “sacrifices each of you has made to ensure that care can be delivered when and where it’s needed.”
“Why are we not getting hazard pay?” one doctor asks. “We’re risking our lives.”
But next she gave her employees the bad news. Noting that some Partners workers have requested hazard pay, she wrote, “We understand why you may be worried about exposure and are vigilant in our efforts to help you and your colleagues stay safe and healthy. We have also heard you are worried about your family, friends, colleagues and patients.” But, she declared, “we do not calibrate pay and benefits based upon the patients’ condition and for this reason we do not offer hazard or crisis pay.”
As noted by Mother Jones, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers across the United States have been called on to put in extra hours and to face enormous risks during the coronavirus crisis. A primary care physician who works at one of Partners HealthCare’s hospitals and who asks not to be identified says that “although he is a half-time employee, he has had to work around the clock. But his pay remains the same.”
There is no overtime compensation. Nurses, he adds, “have been pressured to work within the COVID-19 clinic.” He says he knows of one nurse with lupus who was hesitant to report to the clinic but was told that doing so was a condition of her employment. Doctors and nurses, he points out, have been raising with supervisors the issue of hazard pay.
“Why are we not getting hazard pay?” this doctor asks. “We’re risking our lives. Partners says it doesn’t have the money to do that. But it has some rich hospitals, even if it is losing money now because it cannot bill for office visits and the big elective money-makers: colonoscopies, endoscopies, plastic surgery.”
In her letter, Klibanski pointed out that Partners HealthCare, which was founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, does provide its employees with pay and benefits if they cannot work because they have contracted COVID-19.
The reports note that Klibanski doesn’t have to worry about hazard pay herself. When she became head of the company last year, it was reported that her base annual salary would be $2 million. But it’s likely she pockets more than that. Her predecessor received a base salary of $2.3 million in 2017 plus additional compensation of $3.8 million. According to the Boston Business Journal, that year he earned “nearly three times as much as every other health system executive in the state.”