This morning, Megan A. Adams (a GI & Hepatology News Associate Editor and a Michigan faculty member) and I held an hour-long video conference with all of our Michigan GI fellows. Our four third-year fellows talked about their job search and employment plans for July. Three will join academic centers (UNC, University of Wisconsin, Henry Ford) and one will enter private practice (Atlanta Gastroenterology). I was glad to hear that all had been reassured that their positions were secure despite the COVID-19 impact. As I speak with colleagues across the country, all (whether health system physicians, academic faculty, or community gastroenterologists) are experiencing the financial, emotional, and operational effects of this pandemic. This is an experience that will define our professional careers.
As one of three chief clinical officers at Michigan Medicine, I am part of a four-person team that leads the faculty medical group and the ambulatory portion of our health system. Each of our segments (ambulatory, adult hospital, children’s hospital, and medical school) have targets for sustained cost reductions that total $400 million and Michigan Medicine (as published in the news) plans to reduce our workforce (nonfaculty) by 1,400. We have a hiring freeze, leaders are taking salary reductions, and we have instituted other painful, cost-saving measures. The physician leaders we hired just 12 months ago to oversee a new faculty group structure were thrust into a firestorm. Department chairs, division chiefs, nursing and administrative leaders all are having to make heart-wrenching cost-cutting decisions. Together, we have to make individual reductions in force or retain decisions about people we work with daily. This emotional toll will never truly heal for anyone involved.
There will be little time to recover. We are scrambling to reopen safely, with a planned process. We have a backlog of 12,000 surgeries and 8,000 endoscopy procedures that have been deferred. Eight-hundred children are behind in their well-child medical care, frightened patients are sitting home with critical aortic stenosis, dangerous hypertension, growing cancers, and other urgent medical needs. Private practices are facing the same issues, financial pressures, and emotional toll.
Anna Quindlen once said, “Grief is a whisper in the world, but a clamor within.” Recognize the toll this is taking and don’t be alone with your grief.
John I. Allen, MD, MBA, AGAF
Editor in Chief