Intermountain Healthcare cuts ribbon on new Utah Valley Hospital patient tower 05

The Pedersen Patient Tower at the Utah Valley Hospital is pictured on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Provo.

No one is more important in the current fight against COVID-19 than healthcare professionals, many of whom are putting their own health at risk to care for the ill during this pandemic.

Yet according to the Salt Lake Tribune, a message was sent to staff at Intermountain Healthcare — the largest medical provider in Utah — that it would be cutting pay for physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the coming months.

An official statement from Intermountain spokesman Daron Cowley issued on Monday said no cuts have been made at this point and that “April paychecks for eligible employees include a scheduled annual increase in pay.”

The issue for the healthcare giant is that the threat of COVID-19 has forced a narrower focus with regards to addressing healthcare needs.

“Intermountain is doing everything possible to keep employees working,” Cowley said in the statement. “One way we’re doing this is through redeployment of employees to areas of need. 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. Employees can also use their accumulated paid time off (PTO) 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.”

That, however, might not solve all of the specialization issues — although nothing is certain at this point.

“For a limited number of physicians and advanced practice providers (physician assistant, nurse practitioner) that experience significant reductions to their workload, they may have their compensation adjusted in June — but there have been no reductions in pay to date,” Cowley said in the statement. “This is a dynamic and challenging environment that changes each day. We are continuously assessing the situation and will revisit our plans regularly.”

According to the Tribune, the impending pay reductions were announced Friday in an email sent to staff that included a link to a video from Intermountain. That clip was uploaded to the company’s YouTube page one day earlier.

“We’re in a dynamic and challenging environment with this pandemic, and we’re mindful of the personal impact on everyone, especially on the thousands of physicians and caregivers whose daily work has been postponed, canceled or seen a decline,” Mark Briesacher, chief physician executive, said in the YouTube video. “This is a critical time for physicians to be flexible to the changing needs created by COVID-19. Some areas are experiencing extremely high demand for increased clinical support and we will need your support to meet these needs.”

Briesacher emphasized that the overall goal is to utilize the expertise and skills of the professionals as much as possible.

“Our priority is to help you continue to work and have a stable income,” Briesacher said in the video. “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.”

He specified that Intermountain was amending compensation guidelines and contracts to create flexibility but that there would be an adjustment to compensation on May 31 to mitigate the impacts of reduced work.

He added that Intermountain is reviewing shift-based and salary models and assessing the impact on clinical work.

“Being part of Intermountain Healthcare and a high-performing, multi-specialty medical group is important in times like this to alleviate financial impact and help re-route work to areas of most need,” Briesacher said in the video. “We’re strong, we’re prepared, and together we will respond to this pandemic to meet the needs of our patients, physicians and the organization.”

He promised that Intermountain would revisit the plans as the situation evolved and the company would be transparent about changes it planned to make to both care models and compensation.

In response, the company will be moving jobs around, requiring staff to move to areas of high need and changing shifts. Pay will adjust accordingly, too.

There are 2,400 physicians and advanced practice providers at Intermountain, including at hospitals in Provo and Orem.

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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