Lewis County General Hospital to reduce 14 percent of workforce

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 6:02 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - You can add Lewis County General Hospital to the list of hospitals having to reduce staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic's effect on finances.

Gerald Cayer, CEO of Lewis County Health System, announced Thursday that 14 percent of workers will be placed on an unpaid “leave of absence” beginning next week.

Employees will be asked to volunteer for the leave of absence. Cayer said if no one comes forward, workers will be furloughed based on seniority.

He said affected workers are expected to be on leave for 8 weeks, but that timeline will be evaluated every 2 weeks.

“The inability to continue with elective surgeries and procedures coupled with the dramatic decrease in ancillary visits such as labs and diagnostic imaging and the dramatic decrease in people visiting their doctors has profoundly impacted volumes across the organization, resulting in dramatic and catastrophic drops in revenue,” said Cayer.

According to Cayer, the hospital loses $116,000 daily. March's loss totaled $1.9 million. Outpatient surgeries are down 80 percent. Other hospital services are down 40 to 55 percent.

To save money, the hospital has already reduced staff hours through aggressive schedule management, saving more than $250,000 monthly, but that's not enough to avoid furloughs.

"The number of staff impacted will be 35, which reflects 7 percent of the workforce. When you add that to the 39 FTEs (full-time employees) through the aggressive management of the schedule at 7 percent, we will have an overall impact of 14 percent," said Cayer.

Further reducing staff by 35 will save the hospital another $250,000 a month.

Cayer says the hospital is still fully capable of caring for COVID19 positive patients.

The staff reductions will not affect the following areas in the health system:

- the nursing home

- home health

- hospice

- environmental services

- dietary department

Lewis County General Hospital is the latest hospital to reduce staff.

Watertown’s Samaritan Medical Center informed workers that it will furlough 10 percent of them beginning at the end of this week.

Carthage Area Hospital said it’s currently evaluating staff reductions and has informed some employees that they are being placed on unpaid leave.

Last week, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg announced 69 employees were on furlough.

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