More than a dozen silent protesters associated with Healthcare Workers United gathered Friday morning at the Medical University of South Carolina to criticize the new doctor compensation plan, draw attention to diversity and call for a fairer employee grievance process.
Leonard Riley, a longshoreman and a labor rights activist, said outside the Board of Trustees meeting that MUSC needs to do more than hire black employees for lucrative, high-level posts. Those employees, he said, are the exception.
"Look at the all the departments. Look at the Board (of Trustees)," he said. "How diverse is that board?"
Fourteen of 16 members on the MUSC Board of Trustees are white. For years, members of Healthcare Workers United have routinely attended board meetings at MUSC to protest various issues.
On Friday, members of the group also expressed concern that MUSC leaders are trying to shut down a community advisory council.
Thomas Dixon, a community activist and a member of Healthcare Workers United, admitted that only two people attended the last community advisory council meeting and that "participation has dwindled down from slim to none."
But it's the only way that the public can air issues with MUSC leaders, he said, since the Board of Trustees provides no opportunity for public comment during its meetings.
Dixon said MUSC has hired an outside consultant to determine if the advisory council should continue to hold meetings.
The consultant appears to be impartial, he said, but Dixon is doubtful she will side with community members.
"The outcome is always going to be in favor of the institution," he said.
Healthcare Workers United is equally concerned that MUSC has changed the way it pays doctors. The hospital now ties a percentage of each physician's salary to individual productivity.
Some critics of the new system have said that patients will suffer as doctors are forced to treat as many people as possible.
Pat Cawley, executive director of Medical University Hospital, assured the Board of Trustees on Friday that the new system is more transparent than the old compensation plan, which largely tied physician salaries to the amount of money each department generated.
Cawley said about 10 percent of MUSC faculty have not yet signed their new contracts. Doctors who don't sign the paperwork may formally dispute their contracts next week, he said.