SEATTLE, WA — UW Medicine has announced the temporary furlough of 1,500 of their workers. The university says the move is unfortunate, but necessary to recoup part of the $500 million UW Medicine expects to lose to the coronavirus pandemic.
The affected employees will be placed on furlough from one to eight weeks. During that time, UW Medicine says employees will be able to keep all their benefits, including their health insurance.
The furloughs will affect employees from all sorts of positions, from executive directors and managers to staff at Harborview Medical Center, the University of Washington Medical Center campuses and more. Valley Medical Center has already seen a round of furloughs and staffing changes due to the pandemic.
UW says some employees have volunteered for furlough, others have been chosen by management. Organizers say furloughs are a difficult choice to make, and a last-ditch effort to keep UW Medicine afloat.
“Any actions that impact our workforce, even temporarily, are taken only when all other options have been exhausted,” said UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey in a statement announcing the furloughs Monday. “While there are still many unknowns ahead, we believe furloughs combined with the other steps we have taken will put us in the best position to preserve jobs and continue to support the excellence of UW Medicine’s clinical, research and education programs.”
The furloughs are designed to counter the "substantial lost clinical revenue since the start of the pandemic." UW says the cancellation of most surgeries and procedures, and the high cost of treating coronavirus patients and buying personal protective equipment for staff will have set them back $500 million dollars by the end of the summer.
UW Medicine says they are in talks with all relevant unions about the furloughs and will continue to negotiate with them.
Meanwhile, organizers say several other cost-cutting measures are being implemented, including tighter spending, cut salaries for senior leaders, and plans to seek reimbursement from federal and state governments.