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Health care workers say it’s getting harder to get paid time off for COVID

As a part-time nurse at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Megan Murphy has twice been forced to take a leave from work this summer while waiting to get tested for COVID-19.

On both occasions, Murphy had good reason to believe she’d been exposed to the virus and stayed home, as required by hospital policies, to limit spread of the disease. Each time, it took four to five days to line up an appointment and get the results.

Both tests came back negative. But a snafu delayed the results of Murphy’s first test and left her without enough paid time off to cover her second leave. As a result, she lost two days’ pay and has no sick time left.

“I’m still going to be honest” in disclosing future exposures, she said. “But my concern is, what happens when people can’t afford to have two days unpaid, and they no longer acknowledge that they have symptoms or have been exposed because they can’t afford to miss work?”

Murphy’s predicament is one many health care workers face as COVID continues to spread. While policies vary depending on the hospital, some workers say it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get paid for time off if they feel potential symptoms or have risky exposures.

At Allina Health facilities, workers get can get 14 days of paid leave for COVID-19 — if they test positive. M Health Fairview employees can get paid for all shifts missed — if the exposure happened at work.

“We pay employees for all time missed due to a workplace exposure,” M Health Fairview spokeswoman Aimee Jordan said. “We trust that employees who feel symptomatic will not come to work because of their commitment to patients and the care they provide.”

The issue inspired worker demonstrations at two hospitals last week by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and is driving the Minnesota Nurses Association to support state legislation to address it.

State House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said a bill slated to be introduced in the House and Senate on Monday would require hospitals and nursing homes to give paid time off to health care workers who need to go on leave for COVID testing and quarantine.

It would complement a law passed in April that stipulated COVID-19 infections among health care workers are presumed to be occupation-related for the purposes of workers’ compensation.

“People who are working to protect us and provide health care have no choice but to be exposed. [They] shouldn’t also have the financial exposure of missing work,” Winkler said. “They need their income just like everybody else does.”

State data show that health care workers — those in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and elsewhere — comprise more than 10% of all the state’s lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. State data say 80% of health care worker exposures tracked by the state are classified as occupation-related.

There is evidence that occupational exposures are less risky than other kinds. Minnesota contact tracing shows that as of August, less than 2% of

Study finds female doctors in the US work harder for less money

Female doctors get paid less than male doctors, but a new study disputes the common wisdom that it’s because they work less.

a person looking at the camera: Irregular and long menstrual cycles have been associated with a higher risk of major chronic diseases.

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Irregular and long menstrual cycles have been associated with a higher risk of major chronic diseases.

In fact, female doctors spend more time with patients, order more tests and spend more time discussing preventive care than their male counterparts, a team of researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“That raises the question of whether we are paying for what we really care about in health care,” said Dr. Ishani Ganguli, an internal medicine specialist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who led the study team.

Ganguli and colleagues looked at billing and time data covering more than 24 million visits to primary care doctors in the US in 2017.

“We calculated that women were paid 87 cents to the dollar for every hour worked compared to their male colleagues,” Ganguli told CNN.

Female doctors spent an average of two minutes more per visit than men did. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up over time, Ganguli said. And they are not spending that time chit-chatting.

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“When you compare by visit, women actually did more during the visit,” said Ganguli, herself a primary care provider. “They put in more medical orders, they discussed more medical diagnoses and preventive care. They are spending more time per visit.”

Ganguli and her team did not sit in on visits, so they cannot say precisely what is going on. “We are using clues from billing information about what orders are put in, like for blood tests, or what diagnosis was talked about,” she said.

But other studies have indicated that patients and doctors alike prefer to spend more time in visits, and that patients do better, healthwise, when physicians spend more time with them.

“Per visit, after adjustment for primary care provider, patient and visit characteristics, female primary care providers generated equal revenue but spent 15.7% more time with a patient,” the team wrote.

“We know that all primary care doctors are strapped for time and that doctors and patients all want more time in visits,” Ganguli said.

“So it seems that female doctors are spending that time, but at a cost. Female doctors are responding to pressure from society to be kind and to pay attention and talk to patients. And male doctors are responding to pressure from society to churn through visits so they can make more money from those visits.”

Hannah Neprash, a health economist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health who worked on the study, said the findings show the U.S. health system pays physicians using a flawed formula.

“Female physicians report the highest rates of burnout and our findings may help explain why. If longer visits contribute to feelings