Doctors at D.C. General Hospital and city-operated clinics will no longer receive special pay of $6,000 annually that was intended to help raise their salaries toward levels that doctors get elsewhere.
Doctors at D.C. General, the District's only city-financed hospital, maintain that the decision, announced to them yesterday, breaks a city promise to continue the so-called "comparability" payments, which were originally intended to help attract high-quality staff.
Annette Samuels, Mayor Marion Barry's press secretary, said she was not aware of such a promise to the doctors, but said the cut was necessary due to budget constraints.
Without the $6,000 payments, doctors at D.C. General said, standard annual salaries at the city hospital will be about $56,000, between $18,000 and $24,000 less than those of doctors in comparable positions at federally run facilities, such as the Veterans Administration Medical Center.
City budget director Elizabeth Reveal said comparability payments, which doctors said they had received for the last three years, were no longer needed to attract doctors to public service jobs at the city facilities. "They are no longer having a problem with respect to hiring and filling vacancies, so the original rationale doesn't hold," Reveal said.
Doctors received the extra salary under special contracts which expired yesterday, and the contracts simply were not renewed, Samuels said. The physicians will receive the 7 percent pay raise that most city employes will get next October, she added.
The decision would save the city $3 million to $3.5 million this year, she said. It was unclear how many doctors would be affected, though the physicians themselves said it would be several hundred.
"The staff is quite upset about it, but there is not much we can do about it," said one doctor who asked not to be named. They cannot strike, but several physicians are coming up with some ideas on how to protest the decision, the doctor said.
D.C. General is facing an operating deficit of $8 million this fiscal year, according to the mayor's budget. But the budget states that if an expected increase in the federal payment to the District comes through, part of it will be used to help make up that deficit.