Due to a decline in patient volume in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fayette County Memorial Hospital (FCMH) has decided to furlough 71 of its 352 full- and part-time employees, beginning April 1 and lasting at least 30 days.
By utilizing the furlough process, these healthcare workers will retain their health insurance with the organization, according to FCMH CEO Mike Diener. A furlough is an employer-mandated, temporary unpaid leave from work.
“Between increased expenses around the crisis response – through the purchase of medical supplies and technology – and the decline in the number of people coming through our doors for care, we have reached a point where we need to reduce expenses,” said Diener. “Should patient volume change, we can certainly call those employees back prior to the expected May 1st return date. It’s been a very difficult decision, but it’s what we must do to get through this unprecedented time.”
Due to COVID-19, FCMH experienced a 46% drop in daily outpatient revenue in March, a number that has already climbed to 56% through the first five days of April, Diener said. FCMH also experienced a 27% decline in patient volume within the Medical & Surgical Associates practice, which encompasses the family practice and same day care clinic.
Like many hospitals, FCMH relies heavily on outpatient volume for sustainability with 85% of total patient volume coming from outpatient business.
Diener emphasized that the organization is staffing the facility according to patient volume and no patient care is being compromised.
“We have been caring for this community for 70 years and in order for us to continue to be the health and wellness provider of choice in Fayette County, we must take some drastic measures now for the long-term viability of our organization,” he said.
FCMH has been thrown into a perfect storm, according to Diener, and it is one in which many hospitals are finding themselves.
“We are not alone in taking this measure. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations around the nation, who are not yet in a hot zone, are in the same situation,” said Diener. “Healthcare is hurting.”
The facility has followed the orders enacted by the Ohio Department of Health and Governor DeWine. On March 17, all elective, non-urgent surgeries were cancelled.
“At the same time, the community has had a heightened awareness about COVID-19, the spread of the virus and the stay-at-home order,” said Diener. “As a result, we started seeing a major decline in the number of people coming to the emergency department and to the same day care clinic. People are asking themselves if their injury or illness can be managed at home before they come to us for care.”
Other patients who might be more vulnerable to COVID-19 have been asked to reschedule their appointment either to a later date or via telehealth when appropriate.
“We will continue to monitor our expenses and revenue and adjust accordingly,” said Diener. “This is a very difficult time for everyone. Our goal is to make it through this together.”