Thanks so much for this information!
I have a friend who is a doctor and retired unexpectedly early a few years ago because the healthcare field has become very corporate and doctors, like her, were overwhelmed before this crisis. This is especially true during winter months when lung diseases tend to act up. Also, she tells me that ICU doctors are in short supply — and have been for many years — because the job has become increasingly demanding AND less rewarding in the last 15–20 years. From what she tells me, there was already a significant shortage in ICU doctors in the US.
In some hospitals, the administration forces doctors without ICU training to work in the ICU instead of paying ICU doctors properly, forcing these other doctors to take on tasks they have not been formally trained to do well. This risks not only patients but also the reputation and licenses of these doctors who, due to administrative bullying, have no choice.
My friend was placed in this position and had to leave the hospital in order to avoid being FORCED to work in an area in which she was not adequately trained. Even after stating that she did not feel qualified because she hadn’t done the ICU training, the administration informed her she had no choice because they couldn’t find qualified people. This forced her to do work she didn’t feel qualified to do on the front lines, where she may compromise care and patients — violating the oath she took — and will immediately be blamed for issues that arise, thus protecting the administrators from the consequences of their own actions. She felt she had to leave in order to do the right thing for the patients. This egregious situation should not be experienced by any professional in any setting — why is this allowed in areas in which human lives are at stake?! As an aside, she noted that family members of board members and other wealthy donors are given VIP rooms and the staff asked to deliver VIP treatment, taking away from other patients. This is another violation of not only her oath but the general oath that people in a democracy take by implication: we are all equal.
Hopefully, the VIPs are behaving themselves and not taking resources from others, though I doubt it.
After that, she researched some of it and found that ICU doctors have been demanding decent pay for the work they do for many years but administrators have refused them, instead giving this money to plastic surgeons and dermatologists (she calls these ‘boutique’ doctors) who are very rarely in these ICU situations and have none of these constant stressors. I admit that it is extremely confusing to find out that these doctors make MUCH more money than ICU doctors. Also, according to her, much of the money in hospitals is shifted from doctors, nurses, etc and given to administrators who make very little contribution to patient care.
I realize that these are issues for times which may be less crisis-oriented, but if my friend is right, I assume we will see a significant shortage of actually qualified ICU doctors, a problem which has been underlined for many years within the medical profession and which has been ignored. A lot of well-meaning doctors will be FORCED, as my friend was even during a non-crisis period, to do this work because hospital corporations have been deformed to serve administrators and other less critical-type physicians. At this stage, it will be all hands on deck, but my point is that a prepared government/system should have staffed adequately long before this so that this crisis would be less of a stressor, even if it meant taking money back from administrators and giving it to the health care staff that actually did the work of earning it.
Obviously, there is a massive problem in health care even beyond what we in the public have witnessed. The system should learn its lesson: prioritizing administrators over doctors and nurses is a poor approach to healthcare, because it leads to patient compromise. I don’t even need my friend to tell me that doctors are leaving the profession; this is already publicized, as are the high burnout rates and the rapid increase in suicide among this population. The government and hospital executives have a responsibility, in the long run, to address this deterioration.
For now, I am afraid that the next thing we will hear is the truth about ICU doctors: there already weren’t enough of them, and now there will be a profound shortage.
Thanks again for your important info based on real experience…