By Charday Richardson
I’m a Medical Assistant at UPMC Shadyside Dermatology. I work alongside a doctor, so I assist during procedures, do assessments, and things like that. I also work with a cosmetic dermatologist — the two doctors here are a husband and wife team. So I work with one of them Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the other one on Tuesday and Thursday.
I’m from the West End of Pittsburgh and I’ve been working at this location for almost 5 years, but I’ve been with UPMC for about 11 years, since I graduated high school. My friend had told me they were hiring, and I ended up here.
At my office, we do everything an LPN would do, but we get paid a Medical Assistant salary. I see about 40 to 50 patients a day — it’s very fast paced and busy, you really have to know your stuff and be on top of everything. I like it, but we should really be getting paid for the work.
UPMC does not pay their employees what we’re worth. They call themselves a “nonprofit,” but what’s nonprofit about it? UPMC is the biggest hypocrite in PA right now.
I’m not going to lie, this past year has been even more chaotic. Especially at the beginning of the COVID crisis. We can do tele-video visits, so in theory we’d be seeing only high risk visits in the office. But I feel like UPMC Shadyside didn’t take it very seriously. For instance, they don’t take temperatures in this building, we just have them answer a survey on our phone. We weren’t scanning patients at all. Patients themselves wanted to know why we weren’t scanning their temperature! They want to be screened. And I’m like — you’re right! But we have no control. Management says it isn’t necessary. They just ask them a few questions three days prior to the visit and that’s it.
They only suspended cosmetic procedures for two weeks in COVID. We would have people who answered “negative” on the screening questions who were actually COVID positive coming in for botox. And we only have masks, we don’t have face shields. It’s crazy. And I have a kid who is immunocompromised.
The office never shut down this whole year. I’ve literally been there every single day with no days off. Except for when my mom tested positive for COVID and I had to quarantine. That was the only time I had off. My supervisor told us we aren’t allowed to take days off and they threatened to write us up with HR if we take off.
We’re all so drained.
It has been getting a little better since we voiced our opinions to the doctors we work for; they’ve gotten some things handled. Luckily I work with doctors who care about us more than they care what UPMC management says, and they’ve helped us out. But we shouldn’t have to rely on that.
Since we started organizing, my paycheck has finally been getting a little bigger and it’s helping. Instead of skipping out on a bill I’m able to pay some of it. But we need to be making more than $15 to make an honest living wage in Pittsburgh right now.
And we really needed to get hazard pay over this past year. We were risking our lives. They gave us a drawstring bookbag last week with a note that says “thank you for all your hard work.” My mom works for UPMC too — she got a blanket and an old lunch meat sandwich.
How would you feel?