Hospital workers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic will see their wages cut by a medical staffing company citing lost revenue from postponed procedures.  

Alteon Health, which provides US hospitals with emergency room physicians and other medical staff, announced temporary measures on pay and benefits on Monday.

In a memo to staff, CEO Steve Holtzclaw said: “Despite the risks our providers are facing, and the great work being done by our teams, the economic challenges brought forth by COVID-19 have not spared our industry,”

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Staff will receive a 20 per cent cut to their pay, whilst bonuses, paid leave and 401(k) matches have been suspended. Clinicians’ hours will also be reduced.

Alteon Health is one of the biggest medical staffing companies in the US, with the backing of the private-equity firm Frazier Healthcare Partners. 

Mr Holtzclaw added that the measures were necessary despite being able to claim support from the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress last week. 

The deal allows US companies to postpone payroll taxes for employees, among other measures. 

It comes as staffing companies see a drop in revenue due to postponed elective procedures and non-coronavirus patients avoiding emergency rooms. The process for health insurance claims is also slowing as people work from home. 

Alteon Health staff were told that other companies would be doing the same. “You can be assured that similar measures are being contemplated within these organisations and will likely be implemented in the coming weeks,” wrote Mr Holtzclaw.

According to ProPublica, one Alteon Health worker said she had lost trust in the company: “A lot of sacrifices are being made on the front line that the administration is not seeing because they’re not stepping foot in a hospital,” 

Tenet Healthcare – which runs 65 hospitals – introduced similar measures to suspend matching 401(k) savings plans whilst cutting back on spending on contractors and vendors. 

Another medical staffing company, TeamHealth, said in a statement to ProPublica that it would not introduce cuts to wages and benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. 

It added: “This is despite incurring significant cost for staffing in anticipation of surging volumes, costs related to quarantined and sick physicians, and costs for PPE as we work hard to protect our clinicians from the virus.”

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