LIMA — As Ohio hospitals prepare for an anticipated surge in new COVID-19 hospitalizations, they’re also temporarily furloughing non-essential staff and redeploying others who could help with the pandemic response.
Hospitals have had to quickly reorient their operations by canceling or postponing elective surgeries and transitioning to telemedicine whenever possible to make room for potentially thousands of new patients suffering from complications associated with COVID-19 this month.
But that has led to a sharp drop in demand — and revenue — hospitals typically rely on from routine visits, elective surgeries and outpatient services.
“What you’re seeing is some hospital workers are being asked to rest up now,” Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said during the state’s press conference on Wednesday.
Bon Secours Mercy Health confirmed this week that it will temporarily furlough 700 of the health network’s 60,000 associates and suspend hiring for positions not directly related to its COVID-19 response, although it is unclear how many of those furloughs affect Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and primary care offices in the Lima area.
Some of those workers may be brought back to help with the response, while others may be furloughed for 30 to 90 days, according to a statement from Mercy Health.
Furloughed workers will be eligible for unemployment. Bon Secours Mercy Health has also established a $60 million emergency fund to help associates with financial issues.
“We are actively working to model and anticipate the length of the crisis, we cannot accurately predict the duration of this pandemic, we can only learn from countries that have seen acceleration and are now experiencing declines in the number of cases,” Ronda Lehman, president of the Mercy Health Lima market, said in a statement on Thursday. “If we’re to ensure we can support the clinicians and provide resources necessary to care for pandemic victims and all patients, actions must be taken quickly.
“This is a challenging time for everyone … for those working tirelessly at the bedside, for our skilled and compassionate health professionals and support staff fighting COVID-19 and those associates who will be furloughed. Together, we are working closely with legislators to ensure necessary resources are available for health systems and associates, and we continue to pray for effective treatments and vaccines to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
At Lima Memorial Health System, these decisions are being made on a case-by-case basis, with a focus on reassigning staff whenever possible to fill new roles like checking temperatures, according to President and CEO Mike Swick.
“There’s positions now we didn’t have two weeks ago,” Swick said.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.