Drop in non-coronavirus services at Michigan hospitals leads to furlough of some staff

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 18:33:10-04

(WXYZ) — The surge of COVID-19 in Southeast Michigan hospitals is having a chilling effect on the health systems’ non-coronavirus services, leading to furloughs for some hospitals' staff.

Jeff Morawski, president of Local 40 OPEIU, the union representing medical personnel at McLaren Health’s Macomb Hospital, says more than a dozen employees could be furloughed by Thursday.

“Some nurses that work in departments such as our operating room, because of the decrease in surgeries and elective surgeries, the hospital deemed that they’re not needed so they are going to furlough approximately 15 to 18, or 20 nurses,” Morawski said.

McLaren Health President Tom Brisse is responding in a statement provided to 7 Action News, saying:

“Like many healthcare systems across the country and here in Michigan, this national health crisis has significantly impacted our operations. As we eliminate non-essential procedures in line with the governor’s order and CDC recommendations, surgical patient volumes have been greatly reduced.

In response, we have offered our surgical services nursing team the opportunity to take voluntary temporary furloughs, which allows them to preserve their paid vacation time and apply for unemployment. We developed this approach after discussion with nursing union leadership, who indicated that our nurses would be eager to take this option. We don’t have the final list but we expect between 10 to 20 nurses from our surgical services team to be on voluntary furlough through May 2.”

Detroit Medical Center may be poised to layoff upwards of 60 staff, according to a joint Detroit Free Press and Bridge Magazine report.

In a response to a 7 Action News inquiry on the contents of the story, Detroit Medical Center spokesperson Jason Barczy says the health system does not typically comment on matters regarding personnel.

Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health, the Michigan umbrella of Trinity Health, is poised to furlough approximately 10% of its workforce across its eight hospitals.

The organization released a statement to 7 Action News confirming 2,500 employees will be effected, saying in part:

"These actions are a necessary response to the changes and challenges impacting health care providers across the country, as COVID-19 rapidly spreads and leading health care experts predict a surge of cases over the coming weeks and months. The proportion of furloughed staff is far less than the 50%-60% loss of revenues the health system has withstood since the crisis began - driven by the loss of elective and routine medical care, and the pausing of many administrative functions.”

The statement adds:

“Even as some colleagues take temporary furloughs, Mercy Health and St. Joe's are redeploying approximately 10% of colleagues to jobs that are needed to respond to the crisis, as their skills and qualifications allow. The health systems will continue to evaluate this on an ongoing basis. These necessary shifts in our workforce will enable the health system to better meet the challenges of the pandemic.”

While declining to provide any details of potential staffing changes, Beaumont Health System is also losing revenue as a result of COVID-19.

In a YouTube video to employees on Monday, CEO John Fox revealed a $70 million revenue loss in the first quarter.

“I think the COVID virus is going to be with us for the rest of this year and probably based on what they are saying into 2021,” said Fox, who added his concern for the financial health of private practice physicians and staff during the pandemic.

In a video conference with reporters, Henry Ford Health System’s Chief Operating Officer Bob Riney echoed Fox’s analysis.

“The ongoing cancellation of elective surgeries as well as procedures is going to have a significant impact on our financial performance. About 40 percent of our total revenue comes from the ambulatory side,” said Riney.

A 7 Action News request for any updates on furloughs or layoffs were not immediately returned by Henry Ford Health, Ascension health or University of Michigan Medicine.

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