COVID effect on children outlined

Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN – Effective Friday, 230 people, approximately 10 percent of Samaritan Medical Center’s employees, have been furloughed due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Leslie DiStefano, director of communication and public relations at Samaritan, of the 230 employees, over 25 percent volunteered to be furloughed.

“I think that just speaks volumes of our staff, it’s very impressive,” she said.

Due to several factors, including the postponement of elective procedures, patient volumes at the hospital have decreased by an average of 40 percent and costs have increased in order to develop a Resource Line and freestanding testing site as well as purchase personal protective equipment at higher costs.

According to a release from Samaritan, initial projections show a $2 million loss for March alone, which is projected to increase to $8 million in April.

“Furloughing employees will help Samaritan to keep our staff employed long-term while also reducing our financial burden during this period of low patient volumes,” said Tom Carman, president and CEO, in a statement Friday. “Healthcare systems locally, regionally, and across the country are facing these same financial pressures. We anticipate bringing all staff back to full capacity as quickly as we can once our operations stabilize.”

Samaritan leadership and the Board of Directors have developed a short-term plan to withstand the economic repercussions this pandemic has caused. The leadership team expects the furloughs and pay cuts to last about three months, with all departments being impacted. However, these furloughs will not affect patient care, nor will they impede Samaritan’s COVID-19 response plan should more cases arise locally.

If the COVID-19 surge hits this region, certain job titles will be called back to work as needed, according to the release.

Impacted employees were notified by Friday and provided with guidance and information on how to apply for and obtain both state unemployment benefits and the new federal relief program benefits.

All employees on furlough will retain their health benefits for up to three months and contribution payments toward health insurance premiums can be deferred, if needed.

In addition, the following measures have been implemented to help stabilize the financial burden Samaritan is facing:

- All management, employed physicians, mid-levels and allied health professionals will incur a 15-percent pay cut for three months

- Scheduled casual employee hours will be eliminated and part-time hours will be reduced

- All merit increases will be deferred

- New capital construction projects are suspended

- All contracted staff will be limited, if possible

- Most open positions will not be filled and all new hires that are not COVID-19-critical will be deferred until June 1

“All of the critical work we do at Samaritan is wholly dependent on our dedicated staff, both clinical and non-clinical, and we value their efforts on behalf of this organization and our entire community,” Mr. Carman said. “As soon as it is practical, we look forward to bringing our entire staff back to work to maintain the strength of our healthcare system and the quality care we provide our patients every day.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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