Doctors take pay cut to help save OB program

Published 11:30 pm Friday, February 5, 2010

Five doctors who work in obstetrics (OB) at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital agreed to take 12-percent pay cuts in order to preserve the hospital’s OB program.

“What the state does is, for Medicaid recipients who are pregnant, they have a Medicaid-managed care program,” said hospital administrator Mike Marshall. “Periodically, the state puts the maternity care program out to bid. Providers that had a network in place go in and bid on the right to administer the program.”

In the last bid cycle, the hospital was forced to submit a bid that was lower than what it originally planned in order to maintain its maternity care program.

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“We had to slash our prices, and as a result, we had to ask our doctors to take a cut in their fee here so that we could keep that program viable,” Marshall said. “If they hadn’t done that, we would have had to close (the program), we would have had to lay off five people, and the additional concern that I had was that if we lost the ability to keep those patients at home, we would further erode the volume in our OB program.

“The hospital took a cut, (the doctors) took a cut, we are able to keep our people employed and were able to keep the deliveries coming here.”

Dr. Erik Lessman, one of the doctors who took the pay cut along with Dr. M.J. Fitz-Gerald, Dr. Alex Curtis, Dr. Gerald Hodge and Dr. Ronnie Chu, said the doctors agreed to the pay cut in order to save the OB department.

“The OB department is such a value to the entire community,” Lessman said. “This is the only hospital in the five counties that has OB. We care about the people, and the community and the hospital. We would rather keep it open; we would do anything to keep it open.

“There were intense negotiations with the administration, and the doctors got together and said that we would agree to a 12-percent cut. That would save the hospital $70,000.”

Marshall noted the sacrifice that the doctors made for the sake of the OB department and the hospital.

“We really appreciate what these doctors have done,” he said. “Everybody took one for the team and sacrificed for the greater good, which was commendable on everybody’s part.”