Financially strapped hospitals begin furloughing nurses

Posted at 5:56 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 14:20:02-04

CLEVELAND — While nurses are being pushed to the extreme in hospitals across Ohio--others are being sent home as financially strapped hospitals furlough nurses across the state.

It's a move raising concern among nurses who fear hospitals may not be staffed appropriately if a COVID-19 surge hits.

"For the most part, you're seeing nurses in outpatient areas, in the recovery room, in the surgical centers--these are the people most definitely who are being furloughed," says Deborah Arms, Ohio Nurses Association President, "it's happening everywhere."

Hospitals are stopping elective surgeries in compliance with state health department orders.

It is a move that is drastically cutting into hospital profits.

"We're estimating a $1.27 billion impact to hospitals," says John Palmer with the Ohio Hospital Association, "And a lot of that is attributable to the suspension of those non-essential, elective surgeries that went into effect on March 18."

It's financial hit for many Ohio hospitals that already are operating on very thin margins and struggling to stay out of the red.

But it's causing nurses to be sent home to watch from the sidelines as a health crisis unfolds.

The Ohio Nursing Association is concerned that if a COVID-19 surge hits, hospitals will not be fully prepared.

"It's imperative that hospitals are planning now for those furloughed nurses to be trained so that when the surge hits they can call them back and immediately the nurses that are still working have the help they need," says Arms.

The Ohio Hospital Association says "it's committed to providing appropriate training" and says furloughs "helped conserve vital masks, gloves, respirators and ventilators."

"It's matter of right sizing the ship," says Palmer. "Any time an organization that sees a dramatic decrease in revenue in those elective surgeries that were canceled--you have to balance that."

Here in Cleveland, St. Vincent Charity Hospitals reports while it has furloughed some nurses, it released this statement: "This decision was made with the full expectation to bring all staff and caregivers back once we are permitted to ramp-up our full scope of services. Every effort is being made to cross-train and re-deploy staff to other areas of the hospital as needed. Again, none of our St. Vincent Charity staff are being laid off at this time."

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth all say they have not begun furloughing nurses.

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