GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some doctors at Spectrum Health say they felt forced to sign a contract amendment created after the COVID-19 outbreak led to revenue losses at the West Michigan hospital giant.

Doctors’ main concerns: unlimited working hours and insecure payment.

“That’s going to be detrimental to not only the community and the patients that we serve, but the community, if you are forcing me to work extra because you are trying to make up a financial deficit,” one doctor, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said.

Spectrum Health said nearly 700 physicians were given the contract amendment to sign, adding that it received “overwhelmingly positive reaction to this plan” from them.

Doctors told News 8 a different story.

“Everyone was very upset,” the doctor said. “Most of the people who signed it signed it really late.”
News 8 obtained a copy of the amendment (PDF), which includes an agreement to extended days and hours, a noncompete clause and language that allows compensation to be changed at any time.

If physicians refused to sign, they were told that they would receive a pay cut of 25% or more.

“I think what’s happening is they are driving good physicians that actually bet on themselves out of the organization and it’s promoting mediocrity at all levels at Spectrum Health,” said the doctor, who is now seeking employment elsewhere.

Spectrum Health refused an interview. Instead, it sent a statement and added, “We are not asking any of our physicians to work unrealistic hours or placing unnecessary demands on their schedules. We care deeply about the health and wellness and financial stability of our physicians.”

The statement goes on to say that many health systems around the country are laying off physicians. Spectrum says the contract amendment gives doctors a “peace of mind” about their jobs.

News 8 reported last week that Spectrum was laying off hundreds of employees — though it said they were not in patient care. Other area hospitals have made similar cuts.

The doctor who spoke to News 8 said the amendment isn’t about patients or physicians, but rather about money.

“I felt like this was a power grab,” the doctor said.

Spectrum said the majority of physicians signed the amendment, but would not say how many.

It was effective immediately.

“Currently, health systems around the country are laying off tens of thousands of physicians due to the unprecedented crisis and financial hardship created by COVID-19. Spectrum Health took a different approach and, given their roles on the front lines of the pandemic, gave physicians peace of mind about their jobs and their financial stability. Our leadership and board of directors preserved our Spectrum Health Medical Group physicians’ compensation, despite our organization’s loss of revenue and mounting expenses.

“We recognized that many of our physicians work in specialties and practices that were deeply affected by COVID-19 as certain procedures, in-person visits and preventative care dropped sharply. Most of our physicians are paid based on how busy they are, and without our support, would have had little opportunity to generate sufficient income for themselves and their families.

“This investment in our physicians, many of whom are seeing fewer patients as a result of the pandemic, was to provide a safety net. In return, we asked our physicians for a commitment to protect this investment, should they decide to leave our medical group. These post-employment limitations are standard in health care and many other industries.

“We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive reaction to this plan from our physicians. This was our way of recognizing them for the amazing work they do and how important they are to Spectrum Health’s future and the communities we serve.”

Spectrum Health