Elective surgeries are not being performed at Palomar Health at this time due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the result has been that revenues are “down significantly” for the health system with a 50% drop in patient volume.
Even as the health system gears up for the probability of an all-out assault by the coronavirus on its resources in coming weeks. Palomar Health last week prepared for the arrival of a 250 bed federal emergency field hospital on the 10th and 11th floors of Palomar Medical Center.
Counterintuitively, the health system laid off more than 200 employees for the next three weeks.
Health system spokesman Derryl Acosta, told the Times-Advocate, “We issued temporary 21-day layoffs to 221 employees effective Wednesday; 146 staff were clinical and most were part time and per diem. No staff treating COVID-19 patients were affected. They will retain benefits during the 21-day period.”
The lay-offs led to some union members protesting on Monday morning near the hospital.
Palomar Health issued this statement on Monday: “It is disappointing that some members of the union at Palomar Health have decided to use a global health crisis as a platform to disparage our hospital that our community is depending on right now. To ensure we will be able to continue providing healthcare during this crisis and after, we must take unfortunate, temporary actions like many other businesses and hospitals across the country to balance our finances that have been affected by the pandemic.
It’s important to know that elective surgeries and outpatient services were suspended on March 18 due to COVID-19 safety precautions. While these were absolutely the right actions to take, it resulted in many nurses and caregivers without patients to care for. 74% of affected staff were from surgery and outpatient departments, the remaining positions were support roles not directly related to patient care. There was no impact to inpatient bedside care positions. It is our intent to bring employees back after business returns to normal levels.
All 221 employees impacted have been notified, are immediately eligible for unemployment and will retain their health insurance throughout the 21-day temporary layoff. This is a time when we should be coming together to find solutions. We have and will continue to work with the union in a professional manner, and do not feel that gathering is an effective or safe way to make a statement right now.”
Diane Hansen, President and CEO of Palomar Health, issued this statement: “As a public healthcare district, we take our responsibility to provide care to our community very seriously and must adjust staffing levels to patient volume to remain solvent. Safe patient care will remain our top priority and these temporary layoffs do not impact any positions related to inpatient bedside care. However, the only way we can ensure we are able to continue serving the community during and after this crisis is if we make the right decisions for the organization at the right time.”
Hansen added, “We understand how tough this is on our employees and are very empathetic to the situation. This is a very difficult time for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unforeseen challenges and extreme difficulties to healthcare systems across the county. Issuing temporary layoffs was not an easy decision and was only done after much consideration and many other measures. The health and well-being of all our employees is important to us and we expect to bring our Palomar Health family back to work as quickly as possible.”