By Louie St. George III
Essentia Health today announced plans to reduce non-medical staffing levels as we prepare for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients in the communities we serve.
These plans include redeploying our workforce to best position Essentia Health to care for patients, while responding to the significant financial impacts caused by a reduction in services due to the pandemic. As a result, several hundred employees who are not involved in direct patient care have been placed on a special administrative leave. Staffing levels will continually be evaluated and adjusted as needs evolve.
To slow the spread of the virus and preserve valuable personal protective equipment, Essentia Health has postponed elective surgeries and procedures. We have closed some clinics and postponed routine appointments. Even with our new ability to convert clinic appointments to virtual video visits, patient volumes have declined.
“Essentia Health is focused on keeping our staff and communities safe while addressing the challenges of this pandemic,” said David C. Herman, MD, chief executive officer at Essentia. “We are collaborating with regional partners to share resources and ensure a coordinated response in anticipation of an expected COVID-19 surge. Predictive modeling is taking place both within Essentia Health and via our partners across the states we serve. This data-informed modeling will improve our preparedness.”
Essentia Health has not been immune to the impact on our business operations as we comply with directives from state and federal health officials, which have led to a severe disruption in services. Like other health care organizations around the country, we are projecting a 20-40% decrease in revenue due to pandemic-related declines in patient volumes.
About 500 of our 14,500 employees are being placed on special administrative leave. Essentia is providing support for affected staff members by maintaining health insurance for the near term. These employees can take vacation time or paid time off to lessen the financial impact, as well as unpaid leave. They also can apply for unemployment benefits, which have been expanded and extended by recent legislation. Essentia is offering access to employee-assistance programs like financial counseling, as well as other counseling resources.
“The decision to refocus our operations for the coming COVID-19 surge is difficult because we deeply appreciate the contributions of all our Essentia colleagues,” Dr. Herman said. “We recognize and regret the hardship this uncertainty will have on our coworkers and their families.”