The Sarasota Journal

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Sarasota Memorial to begin furloughs

SARASOTA –– Hard to imagine with a pandemic going on, but Sarasota Memorial Public Hospital will begin furloughing employees.

The cause––the COVID-19 crisis.

Citing a “sudden and drastic drop in patient volumes and revenues,” the public hospital for the county announced late Friday that it would begin temporary furloughs and cuts in hours for some employees.

“This was an extremely difficult decision, and one that we did not make lightly,” CEO David Verinder said in a letter to employees on Friday. “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.”

For March, the hospital reported a revenue loss of $16 million, and hospital officials expect the numbers for April and May to be even worse.

According to a news release, after all non-emergency medical procedures were cancelled, the hospital saw surgery cases fell by more than 50%, and the number of hospital inpatients fell 30%. Meanwhile, volumes decreased by 45% in SMH’s two Emergency Care Centers, and by 66% at its seven Urgent Care Centers.

Meanwhile, the hospital also 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 due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“While we have implemented a hiring freeze for all but mission-critical positions, and reduced staff’s hours in areas that have had to cancel services, COVID-19 still has cost SMH millions of dollars,” Verinder said. “We must take greater action now to sustain our ability to care for the community throughout and after this crisis.”

SMH also plans to suspend any non-critical patient services and projects, cut pay for senior staff, and introduce flex hours for some employees as patient volumes decline.

The letter to employees assured them that furloughed employees would be called back once the hospital resumes normal operations or earlier if needed due to the crisis.

“Once the pandemic abates,” Verinder said, “I am hopeful that we will bounce back quickly, thanks to the reputation, resilience and strength of our team and the support of our community.”

Warren Richardson
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