Like most businesses across the nation, healthcare systems and hospitals have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as they’ve taken unprecedented steps to deal with the impact of the global outbreak by postponing many surgeries and medical procedures to maintain capacity and ensure the safety of caregivers, patients, and communities.
As a result of the financial impact of the pandemic, hundreds of health systems and hospitals across the country have been forced to take measures to address their shortfalls in revenue, including employee layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts. Facing $3 billion in projected losses this year, the renowned Mayo Clinic announced that 42 percent of its workforce will be furloughed or have their hours cut, with all Mayo Clinic physicians having their salaries reduced. The American Hospital Association reports that the nation’s hospitals are losing more than $50 billion each month during the pandemic.
From March through May of this year, surgeries at Intermountain’s 23 hospitals were reduced by 47 percent, emergency room visits declined by 26 percent, inpatient admissions dropped 20 percent, and clinic visits declined by 280,000, or 31 percent. This resulted in a reduction of nearly $435 million in revenue for Intermountain’s hospitals and clinics. With many medical services resuming in mid-May and June, these trends have begun to turn around, but Intermountain is still seeing fewer patients than usual at its hospitals and clinics.
Intermountain is working to address the reduction of that revenue due to the pandemic—but hasn’t adopted the actions taken by many health systems across the country.
“While our employees have worked to keep the community healthy, we’ve worked to keep them healthy from an economic standpoint,” said Rob Allen, Intermountain’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. “Everything we’ve done during the pandemic has been aimed at preserving jobs and pay. This commitment included our annual pay increase for employees, which took place in April, as scheduled.”
Intermountain is taking several steps to address the decrease in patient volumes and revenue:
- For at least the second half of this year, Intermountain will suspend its contributions of matching funds to employee 401(k) accounts. This change only involves the 401(k) match, and not any other employee benefits, and does not change anyone’s take-home pay.
- Intermountain will implement a workforce planning initiative. When an employee voluntarily leaves the company for another job or for personal needs, Intermountain will only replace positions that are determined to be critical for the delivery of care.
- The company will examine major expenditures and carefully consider whether to pause or delay certain plans, including some construction projects.
“We believe these actions will address current financial issues and help us to maintain a stable and sustainable model to provide for the needs of patients, our employees, and our communities,” said Allen.
During the pandemic, Intermountain has been able to maintain the usual pay of virtually all its employees by temporarily redeploying those whose jobs have been affected by the slowdown in hospital admissions and clinic visits.
Some examples include: Redeployed employees staffed hospital and clinic entrances to provide screenings to people who enter Intermountain facilities, they staffed 25 drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites, they staffed a free community mental health hotline, they supported Intermountain’s telehealth services, and 100 of them traveled to New York City to help hospitals there.
Those who couldn’t be deployed were provided up to four weeks of COVID pay and allowed paid time off balances to go into the negative by 80 hours. COVID pay will be ending July 1 since nearly all employees have returned now to their normal jobs.
Allen praised Intermountain caregivers for their commitment to continuing to provide the highest level of care during the past months of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our employees have been remarkable in adapting to these unusual times,” said Allen. “Time after time they’ve responded with compassion, talent, and commitment and have stepped up to serve our communities. They’re heroes. We’re doing everything we can to address this situation in a way that reflects our commitment to them for the great care they provide to patients.”