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Hospital workforce tracker: layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts

Many hospitals are temporarily or permanently reducing the size of their workforce as they grapple with depleted revenues and the thorny question of when they can return to normal operating capacity. Here’s a tracker to follow the latest updates.

Hospitals across the country, financially battered as they face the dual challenges of sick COVID-19 patients and a precipitous decline in patient volume, are struggling to balance quickly shifting staffing needs. While some face and others brace for intense demand, many have announced furloughs of specialists and others that work in elective surgeries that have been drastically scaled back.

Thousands of healthcare workers at hospitals big and small have been asked not to return to work, and it’s still unclear how soon non-essential services will return. While some governors announce plans to reopen businesses, others have extended stay-at-home orders.

Most recent data from the U.S Bureau of Labor doesn’t cover the second half of March or early April, but during the first half of March, the healthcare industry shed 43,000 jobs — reversing a decade of growth in the sector. According to BLS data, the industry added 49,000 jobs in March 2019.

“Even our emergency room has seen a significant drop in patients coming in,” Sue Philips, an ICU nurse at Palomar Pomerado Health in Northern San Diego, told Healthcare Dive.

Phillips is a spokesperson with National Nurses United, the country’s largest nurses union. Palomar Health, which runs three medical centers in northern San Diego County, recently instituted 21-day temporary layoffs of 221 employees.

On April 28, Palomar announced that most of those layoffs were becoming permanent. The system laid off 5% of its workforce, eliminating 317 positions. Fifty of those employees were clinical RNs, mostly in part-time positions, and the rest spread across the organization ranging from clerical staff to technicians.

Due to a 50% decrease in patient volumes, Palomar lost $10 million in revenue in March alone, according to a statement. In April the system said it stands to lose $20 million or more.

“I’m an ICU nurse, so my job is pretty much protected,” Phillips said. “But you didn’t think you were expendable until you became expendable, and that’s a hard pill for nurses and caregivers to swallow.”

Congress has attempted to financially support struggling hospitals through ongoing coronavirus relief legislation, approving some $175 billion thus far. But without knowing what will come next, hospitals are attempting to remain nimble while reining in one of their most costly expenses — paying employees.

The following information is based on publicly reported data, along with interviews with hospital representatives and union members.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but features nonprofit and for-profit hospital systems that reported revenue above $10 billion in 2019. It also takes a look at smaller, more regionally based systems that have announced similar cutbacks.