Sarasota Memorial Hospital reduces staff, blaming cost of coronavirus response

As hospitals across Florida brace for the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least one Bay Area hospital has opted to eliminate staff because of the “financial hit” the virus is having.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital announced plans on Friday to furlough some employees and reduce hours of others as part of a cost-cutting move. A hospital spokesperson cited “a sudden and drastic drop in patient volumes and revenues” for the decision.

Specifically, the hospital took a $16-million revenue hit in March because of the cancellation of elective procedures. Surgery cases fell by more than 50%, the hospital said, and hospital inpatients fell 30%.  

There were similar drops at the hospital’s offsite case centers.

As of Friday morning, Sarasota County has 118 positive cases of the novel coronavirus, 63 of which were treated or are being treated at SMH. Five of the county’s seven deaths were at the facility.

Nine employees have tested positive and are being monitored at home.

“This was an extremely difficult decision, and one that we did not make lightly,” CEO David Verinder said in a letter to employees. “Staff have gone above and beyond to care for our patients throughout this crisis, even as they have been anxious about the health and well-being of themselves and their families.”

Florida’s coronavirus cases are expected to peak a month from now, and the hospital said its financial situation was likely to get worse through April and May. 

RELATED: Model suggests Florida COVID-19 cases will peak in early May

“The health system has had to redirect funds, resources and equipment to respond to the pandemic, planning for surge needs, purchasing additional supplies, and preparing and staffing an increasing number of isolation rooms throughout the hospital,” spokesperson Kim Savage explained.

The hospital did not identify what staff were being impacted by the move, but said the furloughed staff will keep their positions and be called back to work once the hospital resumes normal operations, or earlier if they are needed during the pandemic response. They can also use PTO to cover the gap.

Hospital officials said other cost-cutting measures include temporarily suspending patient services and projects that are not critical, as well as pay cuts for senior leaders.  

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