coronavirus hospital support

Tammy Simmons and Dan Garthwaite, both of Manchester, thank health care workers outside of Catholic Medical Center in Manchester this month. They were among a small group going from hospital to hospital to show support for medical professionals.

MANCHESTER — Catholic Medical Center said it will furlough or cut the pay of 1,337 employees — more than 40% of its workforce — as the coronavirus epidemic has scuttled elective surgeries and other services.

“The steps we have taken to protect public health and patient safety, however, have had a dramatic and devastating financial impact on CMC,” the hospital said in a statement Tuesday. “CMC lost approximately $11 million in March, and we are projecting a $60-$70 million year-to-date loss by the end of June.”

The West Side hospital said 423 employees, about 13% of its workforce, will be on a 60-day furlough starting Sunday. Another 914 employees, or 29%, will have their hours reduced. Leaders at the vice president level and above are taking a 15% pay cut, and executive directors are seeing a 5% cut.

Granite State hospitals are losing nearly $200 million a month in revenue as they focus on COVID-19, according to the New Hampshire Hospital Association.

Gov. Chris Sununu told reporters Tuesday that restoring elective surgeries in hospitals is one of the first things he will “flex open.” The governor said he met with hospital executives Tuesday and will meet with others tomorrow.

Last week, the state’s hospitals shared in $100 million payments from the federal government, part of $100 billion for the industry contained in the CARES Act that Congress passed.

CMC received $8.5 million, said spokeswoman Lauren Collins-Cline.

The hospital also has applied for a zero-interest loan from the state’s $50 million health care relief fund, but it hasn’t heard word on its application, she said. She declined to say how much CMC was seeking.

Affected CMC workers include the 700 workers the hospital previously said were sidelined because they weren’t needed but hadn’t been technically furloughed.

In addition to workforce cutbacks, CMC’s large planned “expansion project is on hold until further notice,” she said. Construction of a new Rite Aid store continues, but work on the new CMC building is “on hold.”

Last week across the city, Elliot Health System announced cutbacks. Plans to furlough 650 employees and cut the pay or hours of another 750 will affect nearly 20% of the workforce of SolutionHealth, which includes Elliot Hospital System and Southern New Hampshire Health.

SolutionHealth estimated it will lose more than $24 million a month after canceling elective surgeries and services to prepare for an anticipated surge in severely ill COVID-19 patients. That includes purchasing ventilators and personal protective equipment, training staff for redeployment and adding more than 100 acute-care beds.

CMC said it took other steps to stabilize its budget, including delaying projects, deferring payments to vendors, renegotiating contracts and applying for federal and state aid.

“Even with the receipt of federal emergency relief funds, it isn’t enough to make up for the losses caused by this pandemic,” the hospital statement said.

Affected CMC workers will continue to receive their health insurance benefits and may use their earned time to make up for lost hours. The hospital said it plans to restore workers and their hours “as soon as it is safe to do so for our patients and staff.”

CMC President and CEO Dr. Joseph Pepe said he was proud of his staff’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

“But the financial consequences of this response are astronomical, leading us to make these painful decisions. I recognize the added stress this will place on many of our valued employees and their families,” Pepe said in a statement. “These steps are temporary, and I look forward to the day, hopefully sooner than we expect, when we are all working alongside each other again.”

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at mcousineau@unionleader.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.  

Friday, October 30, 2020
Thursday, October 29, 2020