Essentia Health Extends Leave for 500 Furloughed Employees

Essentia Coronavirus

DULUTH, Minn. – Plans to furlough 500 non-medical staff at Essentia Health began earlier this month and on Thursday the hospital announced those employees will have their leave extended another 30 days.

Additionally, Essentia says more clinical staff will continue to be placed on leave as they continue to face financial impacts due to COVID-19.

“Colleagues in both medical and business roles are having their hours flexed to meet patient volumes and reduced business functions. Physicians and executive leaders are seeing notable reductions in their compensation as well. To reduce costs, we have streamlined and restructured some leadership roles and eliminated others,” Essentia Health spokesman Louie St. George III wrote in a statement.

Essentia says furloughed employees will continue to receive benefits and could be called back to work on short notice.

“The care of our patients remains our top priority. The cost-saving measures we are implementing will not impact our ability to provide care during this crisis while preserving our ability to care for patients and communities in the future,” said St. George. “Essentia Health is not alone in facing the pandemic’s severe financial impacts while planning how to redeploy our workforce to best care for patients in the coming surge of illness.”

St. Luke’s Hospital President & CEO Kevin Nokels says the hospital has also been seeing a decline in patient volumes at its clinics.

St. Luke’s has been experiencing a dramatic decrease in patient volumes in all clinical areas, as people are appropriately following the Governor’s statewide stay-at-home order. We are at the same time preparing for the expected surge in COVID19 patients. Typically with a significant and extended decline in patient volumes, we would immediately reduce staffing, however, with the projected surge in COVID19 patients we are planning for an increase in patients while continuously monitoring patient volumes and needs and are adjusting our staffing as appropriate.”

On March 25, St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth announced the layoffs of seven employees in positions considered non-essential during the pandemic.  The hospital is also temporarily cutting hours for workers in some areas.

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