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Macomb County hospital to lay off nurses unrelated to coronavirus care

McLaren Macomb will lay off 16 to 20 operating and recovery room nurses this week, citing dwindling numbers of surgeries at the hospital in Mount Clemens, the president of the registered nurses' union said Monday.

The layoffs are just the latest indication that Michigan's hospital systems are facing turbulent financial times during the coronavirus pandemic as elective surgeries and other procedures are put on hold.

Bob Riney, the president of health care operations and chief operating officer at Henry Ford Health System, said Monday during a press call that canceled surgeries are affecting its finances.

“I don't have specific dollar numbers ... but there's no question that the ongoing cancellation of elective surgeries as well as procedures is going to have a significant impact on our financial performance," Riney said.

“About 40 percent of our total revenue comes from the ambulatory" side of the business, "and most ambulatory components are virtually at a standstill now," Riney said.

Beaumont Health also reported Monday that its finances had been significantly impacted by the pandemic in the first three months of 2020. 

As of March 31, Beaumont had a net income loss of $278.4 million in the first quarter, a decrease of $407.5 million over the same period in 2019. Operating revenue fell to $1.07 billion, a $78.2 million decrease over the $1.15 billion reported in the first quarter of 2019.

“The Beaumont Health team remains focused on caring for our COVID-19 patients and the many other patients we serve with other diagnoses. Right now, we have the resources, staff and personal protective equipment to care for our COVID-19 patients,” Beaumont Health Chief Financial Officer John Kerndl said in a news release.

“However, the shelter-in-place order and community concerns about the virus have led to significant reductions in emergency center visits, nonessential surgeries and diagnostic services. We believe these reductions will continue well into the second quarter and negatively impact financial performance in a significant way,” Kerndl said.

At McLaren Macomb, the operating and recovery room nurses will be laid off this week, said Jeff Morawski, president of Local 40 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union.

He said the hospital is only using two of its surgery rooms, while a dozen or so are idle.

Stories from the front  

Bridge Magazine and the Detroit Free Press are teaming up to report on Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be sharing accounts of the challenges doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel face as they work to treat patients and save lives. 

If you work in a Michigan hospital, we would love to hear from you. You can contact Robin Erb rerb@bridgemi.com at Bridge or Kristen Jordan Shamus kshamus@freepress.com at the Free Press.

Morawski said the pandemic is taking another toll on his nurses: They are getting the virus. A couple of them were so sick they had to be hospitalized, another is sick with the virus and plans to quit, and yet another was going to be tested.

McLaren Macomb isn't the only hospital planning layoffs.

Detroit Free Press reported Friday that the Detroit Medical Center is laying off more than 60 lab assistants, couriers and patient support staff.

Steve Hicks, the president of Teamsters Local 283, told the Free Press that the DMC is laying off 27 employees at Children's Hospital who handle patient intake and other duties and 38 lab assistants, couriers and customer service assistants who work throughout the hospital system's Detroit campus.  

The Free Press reported this month that Trinity Health was planning to furlough some workers, and to move some full-time employees to part time to blunt the financial impact of the pandemic.

In a letter to employees obtained by the Free Press, Trinity Health President and CEO Mike Slubowski explained that while the Catholic hospital system will expand its coronavirus surge capacity by increasing staff, beds and ventilators at hospitals, and expanding lab testing and telehealth, it also must cut costs. 

"Many government leaders, and the general public, don't understand this," Slubowski wrote in a letter dated April 1. "They think hospitals are full, and they don't realize that more than half of our revenue comes from outpatient and elective services. While we are providing more telehealth visits, our estimates are that, even with the increase in inpatient volumes anticipated with the COVID-19 surge, we will not generate enough revenue to cover our costs."

Trinity Health operates hospitals in Michigan and 21 other states. 

At the Henry Ford Health System, many employees have been working extra shifts and overtime to manage the coronavirus surge, Riney said.

Several have been reassigned to parts of the health system that are in high demand because of the pandemic. The health system has also persuaded some volunteers to come out of retirement while the Cleveland Clinic is sending in reinforcements. He said Henry Ford is "finalizing some of their trips to Detroit.”

"I still consider everything our staff do as being nothing less than heroic because they are just keeping it together under incredibly challenging circumstances," Riney said Monday.

“In terms of pay, I know that some other health systems have reported that they’ve had to provide some additional financial incentive for individuals to take on those extra shifts, work, because they're taking out a lot of expense in their personal life to do so. And so like many, we have given our leaders some flexibility at paying what we're calling surge pay or some premium dollars to help alleviate some of the financial challenges that come from our team members working very long hours," Riney said.


Contact Jennifer Dixon: 313-223-4410 or jbdixon@freepress.com

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