San Diego Business Journal Health Care: Pay Cuts Accompany Recent Layoffs

Doctors at Scripps Clinic agreed to take a pay cut last month to offset rising health care costs, but another round of cutbacks appears unlikely, said a Scripps spokeswoman.

Terri Bell, a spokeswoman for Scripps Clinic, said the organization cut 100 jobs in March to reduce expenses in response to rising health care costs and declining reimbursement rates for providing patient care.

The layoffs, which affected doctors and other medical and administrative staff at various locations, followed a recent Scripps Clinic decision to initiate a 10 percent pay cut for all of its 320 doctors as well as senior management, Bell confirmed.

The pay cuts will amount to a $1 million savings for the first quarter ending April 30, Bell said.

"This has to do with the rising cost of health care and the cost of doing business," Bell said.

She declined to comment on financial details.

She added, however, that Scripps Clinic has no plans to lay off additional people, enact more pay cuts or initiate any closures.

Scripps Clinic employs some 2,400 people, including 320 doctors, serving some 900,000 patient visits annually, Bell said.

The organization has clinics in Encinitas, Del Mar, La Jolla, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho San Diego, San Diego, San Marcos, and Santee.

An independent anesthesiologist working alongside Scripps Clinic doctors said physicians are worried the clinic will initiate more pay cuts.

But Dr. Rosemarie Marshall Johnson, an anesthesiologist who belongs to the Anesthesia Service Medical Group Inc. in San Diego, said Scripps Clinic doctors expressed concerns they won't be able to make a living if the pay cuts continue.

"I have spoken with Scripps Clinic physicians who don't feel the cuts are over," said Johnson, a former president of the San Diego County Medical Society. Johnson often works with Scripps Clinic doctors who are treating patients at Scripps Green Hospital. "One physician said he was looking for a moonlighting job if they have other cuts."

Johnson said Scripps Clinic doctors aren't the only ones plagued by an inadequate health care environment.

Johnson said the hospital is seriously underfunded and is staffed with overworked doctors and nurses.

"Everybody, the physicians, the nurses, are running all the time. It's a great danger to patients' health to have such an underfunded and overworked health professional environment," Johnson said.

She added physicians aren't blaming Scripps Clinic administrators for the large number of patients added at reduced reimbursement rates and the acceptance of inadequate contracts to remain competitive.

Bell said in 1999 the volume of patients increased by 6 percent.