A cold, numbing fact of all wars is “collateral damage ” — an injury inflicted on something other than an intended target.
The layoffs that went into effect Friday at Mercy Health St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima are “collateral damage” in the war against the coronavirus, an invisible monster.
Such layoffs are happening at hospitals across the country, which comes as a surprise given the national health-care system is being pushed to the brink.
While the pandemic is predicted to flood hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units as it sweeps across the country, the government precautions put in place to limit the spread of the virus have produced an unintended consequence. They’ve resulted in sharp drop-offs in regular doctor visits as well as emergency-room arrivals. More so, the day-to-day elective surgeries that keep a hospital financially viable are not happening right now.
The hospital financial woes don’t end there.
Hospital revenue is also taking a hit from the soaring price of supplies that are in shortage.
All those factors spell danger for a medical system that boasts of being the best in the world.
“There’s this waiting period for the wave to hit that a lot of hospitals aren’t prepared to weather. Because their revenue has gone way down, they’re having to cut expenses in a way that might make them less prepared when the wave does hit,” Chas Roads, a chief executive of the medical industry consulting firm Gist Healthcare, told the Wall Street Journal.
Cincinnati-based Mercy Health is the largest health system in Ohio and one of the largest in the nation. According to a company-issued statement, it will temporarily furlough 700 of its 60,000 associates. Some of those workers may be brought back to handle the response, while others may be furloughed 30 to 90 days.
Mercy Health would not say how many in Lima would be affected, but noted those furloughed would be associates who are unable to work due to temporary closure, cancellation or low census in primary care, outpatient and surgical services. And while that group makes up just over 1% of those employed by Mercy, the cutbacks don’t end there.
A news report by WCPO-TV, an ABC affiliate in Cincinnati, said the pay of some doctors is also being affected. The TV station said it obtained an email that Mercy Health sent to many of its doctors. It reportedly said, “If your productivity declined significantly, we will reduce your base draw commensurate to 70% of your historical average productivity. At this time, we do not anticipate needing to reduce your base draw below 70%.”
The medical field is also experiencing a nationwide trickle down effect, the Wall Street Journal reports. Clinics and outpatient facilities have cut employee hours, and ambulance and medical transport companies are seeing reductions in services for transporting nursing home residents between healthcare facilities due to shelter-in-place restrictions.
From all of this one thing is clear: In this war on the coronavirus, no business stands untouched.