WellStar Furloughs Employees As It Hemorrhages Money: Coronavirus

·2 min read

MARIETTA, GA — Fewer patients and costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic are forcing WellStar Health Systems to furlough more than 1,000 employees and cut hours for another 1,800.

All changes were effective Tuesday and will last through July. All affected employees will retain their benefits.

The Marietta Daily Journal reports that the number of employees furloughed is about 4.4 percent of the company’s total workforce of 24,300. The total number of employees to have their hours reduced is about 7.6 percent of WellStar’s workforce.

Jim Budzinski, WellStar’s chief financial officer, told the Journal that he expects the company to lose $400 million to $600 million through 2020, equivalent to “two-and-half to three years of our normal operating income.”

Most of that loss — about 85 percent — is because WellStar did less business overall, thanks to patients’ concerns over contracting COVID-19. The rest of the loss was related to the cost of fighting the coronavirus.

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Compared to April of 2019, total admissions to WellStar facilities are down 26 percent, according to Budzinski. The system also performed 59 percent fewer surgeries and admitted 46 percent fewer patients to its emergency rooms.

WellStar had already tightened its belt by cutting executive and physician pay, freezing hiring, and eliminating overtime and bonuses. The system had also received almost $140 million in coronavirus-relief funds from the federal government — but it wasn’t enough to compensate for lost business.

“Many people may not really understand how a health system could be suffering financially during this time when health care is so vital,” Budzinski told The Marietta Daily Journal, “yet there are many other services we provide ... that have seen a severe drop in patient volume since mid-March.”

WellStar isn’t the only health-care company taking a hit during the pandemic. The American Hospital Association reported that it expects health systems nationwide to hemorrhage more than $200 billion because of the pandemic between March 1 and June 30. That's about $50 billion a month.

WellStar operates hospitals in Acworth, Alpharetta, Douglasville, Hiram, Marietta, Roswell and Smyrna, as well as other health-care facilities throughout Georgia.

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This article originally appeared on the Marietta Patch

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