Financial hit from COVID-19 virus outbreak prompts furloughs, cutbacks by Saint Alphonsus Health System

Trinity Health, the parent company of Saint Alphonsus Health System, announced Wednesday it would cut hours for employees and furlough some employees as the organization staggered under financial losses because of the COVID-19 virus. (The Enterprise/File).

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ONTARIO – The Saint Alphonsus Health System announced Wednesday it planned to slash hours for some employees, reduce compensation for senior leaders and furlough workers in response to financial losses linked to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

Saint Alphonsus Health System is part of Trinity Health, a Michigan-based medical group. Trinity Health operates medical facilities and clinics throughout southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon.

How many employees at the 49-bed Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario will be impacted is not known, said Mark Snider, a spokesman for Saint Alphonsus Health System said today.

“We are still evaluating. No decision has been made as to the number,” said Snider.

Snider said in terms of care, not much will change for residents who seek medical attention.

“So, if someone received service at the Ontario hospital there is a high likelihood, they will receive the same service today, tomorrow and yesterday,” said Snider.

Snider said the hospital group “isn’t closing its doors.”

“Certainly, for some of the support functions, the people who are not directly involved in patient care, if they can’t be shifted to other roles, they may seem some impacts,” said Snider.

In a statement released Wednesday, Odette Bolano, chief executive officer and president of Saint Alphonsus Health System said, “health systems worldwide are under tremendous pressure to prepare for the upcoming COVID-19 surge.”

“We are actively recruiting to increase our clinical staff, redeploying colleagues to address critical needs, decreasing senior leader compensation and planning for reduction of colleagues’ hours and furloughs to address the challenges we face,” Bolano said.

The hospital system stopped elective procedures more than two weeks ago to prepare for an onslaught of COVID-19 virus patients which sliced into its bottom line.

“That had a negative impact on cash flow and finances,” said Snider

Snider said the furloughs were not layoffs but “unpaid leave.” He said furloughed employees can be quickly called back into service if needed.

Hospitals everywhere are beginning to feel a financial squeeze even as the COVID-19 virus continues to rage.

Last week, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, asked the Oregon Legislature to convene a special session to create a $250 million Hospital COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The association also urged lawmakers to design a $200 million Hospital Stabilization Fund where money can be directed directly to hospitals to “address urgent needs.” Part of those funds will be committed to Oregon’s smaller rural hospitals to forestall layoffs or furloughs.