As some have warned for weeks, an unintended though anticipated consequence of nationwide shutdown measures is the mass layoffs of tens of thousands of healthcare workers, and that number is climbing.
As highlighted by both The New York Times and The Associated Press, hospitals and healthcare facilities across the nation have delayed so-called elective surgeries and non-COVID-19 related medical actions in preparation for the predicted onslaught of novel coronavirus patients, mostly by state order.
“Governors in dozens of states have delivered executive orders or guidelines directing hospitals to stop nonurgent procedures and surgeries to various degrees,” The New York Times noted. “Last month, the United States surgeon general, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, also implored hospitals to halt elective procedures.”
The massive decline in revenue, however, has resulted in at least 42,000 healthcare workers filing for unemployment, Department of Labor numbers revealed last week.
“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,” The Associated Press reported Saturday. “Big-city physician and specialist groups, tiny independent hospitals from Oregon to Connecticut, and big multistate hospital systems such as Steward Health Care are seeing big dropoffs in revenue and laying off or furloughing hundreds of workers.”
Even in coronavirus “hot spots,” healthcare workers are having their hours cut or given pink slips, the Times highlighted: “[T]rained health care workers sidelined, even in areas around Detroit and Washington, where infection rates are climbing, and even as hard-hit hospitals are pleading for help.”
The cuts to healthcare are expected to continue, and the numbers available currently are seemingly only the tip of the iceberg.
“Not all states release that data in real time,” the AP explained, “although Minnesota reported that from March 16 through March 31, more than 13,600 health care practitioners or technicians filed unemployment claims in that state alone.”
While “[s]ome layoffs, the generally permanent loss of a job, and furloughs, a reduction in hours or a leave of absence with the option to return, are focused on nonclinical staff,” the report says, “[e]lsewhere, clinical professionals — specialists, lab techs, operating room staffs, nurse specialists, support staff — suddenly find themselves with a cut in pay or hours, or sitting at home, including some in coronavirus hotspots.”
In Tennessee, Erlanger Health System said they lost millions of dollars in one week of the shutdown alone, according to AP.
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System in Florida had to drastically cut employees on Friday, after losing an estimated $16 million in expected revenue in March alone.
“Sarasota Memorial Hospital announced it will furlough some workers and reduce hours for others due to a ‘sudden and drastic drop in patient volumes and revenues,'” an ABC affiliate reported Friday. “According to officials, Sarasota Memoria Hospital experienced a $16 million reduction in revenue in March. After non-emergency procedures were canceled due to the pandemic, surgery cases fell by more than 50 percent and the hospital saw a 30-percent drop on the number of inpatients, according to the press release.”
The entire state of Florida has 12,350 active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday morning, and a total of 221 fatalities associated with the virus.