In a touching gesture in a time of severe economic crisis, heads of departments of a US medical center are showing the way. They are pooling together their resources and making a significant donation to avert layoff of their staff with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Dr. Stuart Rosenberg, head of the 800-doctor faculty practice (HMFP), said in his letter to his colleagues:
"By now, we all know about the enormous stresses on the world economy and the inevitable negative impact on the healthcare system including BIDMC. In the past week it has been announced that economies and cost savings will be necessary in order to continue the critical responsibilities BIDMC has to our community.
Yesterday evening, the BIDMC Department Chiefs of Service and HMFP took steps to demonstrate our support of the outstanding and loyal staff of the medical center. We created the "Physicians Support BIDMC Fund" to complement job preservation and budget efforts at the hospital. As a start, each of the 12 Chiefs and I have agreed to make a significant voluntary contribution to BIDMC for this purpose, the total of which is over $350,000.
We are also sending a letter to the entire BIDMC physician community, inviting them to make as generous a contribution as possible to this same effort. Although physicians are not employed by the hospital, our commitment to patients, teaching, and research are inextricably linked to BIDMC. Thus, just as medical center staff and colleagues are asked to make sacrifices, so shall we."
Beth Israel Deaconess, one of Boston's major academic medical centers, said this month it is facing a $20 million loss in the current fiscal year, and would be looking at cost-cutting measures including layoffs.
Following the announcement, Paul Levy, the hospital's chief executive, met with employees and solicited ideas to save money and preserve jobs. This week, he wrote on his blog that the meetings had resulted in enough cost savings to reduce the number of planned layoffs from 600 to 150.
To further reduce the number of layoffs, the department heads each contributed about $27,000 from their annual pay.
"This was a really easy decision," said Dr. Mary Ann Stevenson, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology. "Most of us have been longtime campaigners for the hospital. There were lots of opportunities to leave over many bad years. Most of us feel really strongly about where we work."
"This is not chicken feed," she added. "It's completely voluntary, but we hope this will start a groundswell of support."
Dr. DeWayne Pursley, chair of the Department of Neonatology and acting chair of obstetrics and gynecology, said, "In my two departments, I'm quite confident that the great majority of physicians will participate. I don't know at what level. People have their own personal issues. Personally, I have three kids in college."
The financial troubles at Beth Israel Deaconess reflect those affecting hospitals around the country. Many have faced unexpected downturns in patient volume as people hit by the recession have put off elective surgery and other procedures that carry large co-payments. Others are also without health insurance as a result of losing their jobs, Jeffrey Krasner reported for Boston Globe.
After two years of strong growth, inpatient volume at the hospital is down about 1 percent in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. As part of cost savings, Levy cut his pay 10 percent, while other senior executives will see their pay reduced 5 percent. The hospital also will not pay bonuses this year.
"Our doctors have once again shown the affection they have for the hospital staff and have displayed a marvelous sense of community," said Levy.
"It is a privilege to be associated with so many fine individuals whose daily hard work and commitment add so much value to our community. Together we will come through this challenge stronger and better positioned to continue our important work. "