Health care institutions are furloughing employees across the country as extreme social distancing measures meant to “flatten the curve” are economically destroying the nation’s health care capacity.
Hospitals forced to forgo elective surgeries in preparation for a surge in patients struck by the Wuhan coronavirus have suffered lost revenues needed to keep operations afloat. As a result, many have announced cuts in critical personnel in recent days as dried up revenue streams begin to take their toll faster than the virus.
Last week, the largest hospital chain in eastern Kentucky announced it would be letting go of about 500 employees following a 30 percent decline in business. Appalachian Regional Healthcare runs 13 hospitals across eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia in addition to home-health services and pharmacies.
This week, the Kentucky health care network was joined by a series of other medical institutions around the country declaring they would follow suit with massive layoffs in light of lost business.
On Tuesday, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center announced that about 400 employees would be temporarily let go representing approximately 14 percent of its total workforce.
Near Nashville, Tennessee, the Williamson Medical Center said Tuesday it would be letting go of 200 employees.
In Oregon, Columbia Memorial Hospital is cutting 90 employees totaling 12 percent of its staff.
Prisma Health in South Carolina, also declared it would be undergoing a round of furloughs.
In south New Jersey, the CEOs of Shore Medical Center, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center and Cape Regional Medical Center each wrote Wednesday they were either cutting staff or were seriously considering it.
Further north in Massachusetts, the Boston Medical Center furloughed 700 employees making up 10 percent of the hospital’s workforce.
As health care facilities nationwide make cuts to staff, experts remain concerned about the nation’s current health care capacity to treat the surge in patients likely to require hospitalization over the Wuhan virus in the coming weeks. The White House expects the peak in cases to come in about the next two weeks with 100,000 to 240,000 deaths projected with current social distancing measures in place.
Meanwhile governors are pleading to other states for medical professionals to assist in their fight against the virus while facing severe staffing shortages and are also relaxing licensing requirements. In March, Vice President Mike Pence announced a new directive under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to temporarily allow doctors and nurses to work across state lines despite what state they’re licensed in.
“If you’re a health professional anywhere in America, Michigan needs you. We’re calling on doctors, and nurses, and respiratory therapists, and other health professionals to sign up and help us fight Covid-19 and save lives,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a video on Twitter.
If you’re a medical professional anywhere in the United States, Michigan needs you. Please visit https://t.co/WZ51AQdAZw to volunteer to help the residents of our state fight #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/Nl7Gp9uls4
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) March 31, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a similar cry for help.
“Help New York. We are the ones who are hit now,” Cuomo said from a temporary hospital on Monday.
While other states have yet to see the caseload taking place in New York, their own curves are not too far behind and staffing shortages are likely to impact hospital readiness to combat the epidemic if the crisis escalates to a similar level.