BUFFALO, N.Y. — UBMD Internal Medicine, a medical practice affiliated with the University at Buffalo's medical school with more than 100 physicians, announced a pay cut and furloughs due to the financial impacts and "unprecedented circumstances" related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"[P]eople are taking care of their health differently -- by social distancing, staying home as recommended, seeking healthcare through telemedicine, and postponing outpatient visits and medical procedures," Dr. Anne Curtin, president of UBMD Internal Medicine, said in a statement to 2 On Your Side. "These significant changes ... have put unprecedented strains on many medical practices."
In an email sent to employees and obtained by 2 On Your Side, Dr. Curtis said all doctors and staff will have a 10% reduction to their base salaries.
The email said certain staff will be furloughed. In the statement to 2 On Your Side, Dr. Curtis said the furloughs will apply to less than 10% of the staff.
"Our plan instituted a temporary pay decrease as a way to avoid having to furlough our team members more than absolutely necessary," she said. "Our team members are essential to the long-term care of our patients and we will welcome them back when the COVID-19 crisis ends."
Staff that get furlough notices will be able to keep their health insurance coverage. Workers who are not furloughed may still see their hours reduced, which will also reduce the amount paid.
Dr. Curtis said UBMD Internal Medicine will reassess the situation on a week-by-week basis to bring back furloughed employees as quickly as possible, although in the email to employees, she said "we must assume that the marked reduction in volume will persist for at least the next 60-90 days."
Quite a few physicians and staff contacted 2 On Your Side to blast the move.
"In the most desperate time of need, UBMD has decided to hit one of the most vital parts of the organization, the vulnerable doctors on the frontlines who are risking their lives," one unidentified employee said.
Some of the physicians with UBMD Internal Medicine work in local hospitals, including Buffalo General, ECMC and the Veterans Administration Medical Center. Some are on the frontlines in treating local COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Curtis told 2 On Your Side that postponing elective procedures and moving to telemedicine services have resulted in a 50% drop in patient visits and "a corresponding drop in revenue."
Employee said the practice's financial problems pre-date the current health crisis.
UBMD Internal Medicine is made up of 135 physicians and nearly 200 support staff. they work at 14 different hospital and outpatient locations throughout Western New York, according to the practice's website.