HUDSON — Columbia Memorial Health temporarily furloughed approximately 125 staff members Tuesday.
A message from CMH President and CEO Jay Cahalan said while it was an action that no one wanted to take, it was the result of extremely limited options.
The temporary furloughs mean employees will still have health insurance coverage and can receive enhanced unemployment fund levels while not receiving their regular salaries.
Employees who were furloughed could be called back to work with 48 hours’ notice.
With an increase in COVID-19 preparation, there has been a decrease in physician office visits, elective procedures and diagnostic testing in recent weeks, which was predicted, Cahalan said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo authorized state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to order hospitals to cancel elective surgeries and procedures in his March 23 executive order. He had previously required hospitals to increase inpatient capacity by 50%.
“Most of that is understandable; what was less predictable is the dramatic decline in the number of [emergency department] visits, Rapid Care visits, total number of admissions to the hospital, and the sharp drop in the number of patients placed in an observation status,” Cahalan said.
Many would-be patients are concerned about visiting hospitals and having access to health care services with the stay-at-home order in effect.
These, in addition to the soaring costs of personal protective equipment, or PPE, created an “unprecedented financial crisis for hospitals and health care organizations,” Cahalan said.
These changes have cut revenue nearly in half, while at the same time increasing expenses, which is being seen in hospitals throughout the region.
Businesses and organizations are being assisted by the federal government’s CARES Act, which includes enhanced funding levels for furloughed employees. Hospitals are utilizing similar programs to preserve the workforce, and are working with the government to make them more accessible.
“We all know that health care is different from other services and businesses, now is the time that we need to strengthen our health care system, not lose time that we could be spending on preparation for the next surge,” Cahalan said. “We will continue to make that point and will likely enlist our staff and community in that effort as well.”
Cahalan said although he wished there were other options, the only way the hospital saw to access funding benefits for the workforce was to implement temporary furloughs.
New York state remains on PAUSE through May 15.
Abby Hoover is a reporter for the Register-Star. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.