A nurse puts on her Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before starting to work on the preparation of the Intensive care unit in the new Covid-19 Hospital on March 29, 2020 in Verduno, near Alba, Northwestern Italy on the eve of its official opening, as part of the measures taken to fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus. - The hospital have seven beds of intensive care and fifty beds for patients infected by the COVID-19. (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

Hospitals in US are loosing workers in time of pandemic

The threat of a pandemic is increasing day by day and the USA has become the hotspot of this coronavirus pandemic. In this severe time of the pandemic, American health care workforce is being squeezed from two sides, by the coronavirus itself and a shortage of protective gear but also by the economic crisis, which is driving physician practices and now some hospitals to furlough or lay off staff at the very moment they are most needed.

Tens of thousands of medical workers across the United States are suddenly out of work as operating rooms and doctor’s offices go dark, casualties of urgent calls to prioritize coronavirus patients at overwhelmed hospitals and of the economic waves the crisis is churning. Many nurse anesthetists in Pennsylvania have been laid off, even though they are particularly critical to the coronavirus response because they can help intubate patients and manage them on ventilators.

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I certainly never thought there would be a day as a nurse that I would be filing for unemployment, so it’s quite surreal for all of us, said Jess Poole

Jess Poole is a nurse anesthetist who, until a couple of weeks ago, worked for an anesthesia practice in the Pittsburgh area.

One nurse characterized the situation as: “You’re a hero, but also we don’t value you enough to prepare or pay you.”

Here are some of the news articles where the layoff of workers are mentioned.

  • Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston is laying off 900 people from its 17,000-person staff and asking full-time salaried employees to take a 15 percent pay cut, according to the Post & Courier; the hospital says it’s not laying off front-line workers at this time.
  • Essential Health, a major medical system of clinics and hospitals in Duluth, Minnesota, is laying off 500 workers, per KBJR. The Cookeville Regional Medical Center in Tennessee will be furloughing 400 of its 2,400-person staff, and a few hundred others will see a cut in their hours, Fox 17 Nashville reports.
  • Boston Medical Center is furloughing 10 percent of its staff, about 700 people, according to the Boston Globe.
  • Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic, which runs five hospitals in the Philadelphia area and employs 125,000 people there, will furlough an unspecific percentage of its staff, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Mercy Health St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, Ohio, is temporarily laying off 700 workers.
  • Two hospital systems in West Virginia are furloughing upward of 1,000 employees combined, Metro News reports.
  • The largest hospital system in eastern Kentucky is laying off 500 workers, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Hospitals have typically said in these announcements that they are starting with nonmedical staff for furloughs and reduced hours, which is no solace to those workers but softens the impact on our medical capacity.

But it’s not clear how long medical systems can avoid cutting doctors and nurses as well, and some of them clearly cannot. I heard from a nurse in Texas, who asked that neither she nor her hospital be named for fear of professional repercussions, who have been furloughed because of the ongoing economic crisis.

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