While it may seem counterintuitive during the coronavirus pandemic, there are many hospitals across the United States that are furloughing, firing, or cutting pay for employees despite the coming surge of virus cases.

The act of doing so is not, unfortunately, limited to a specific few, and is becoming an issue for more hospitals nationwide. These moves have become a necessity for most hospitals as they have cut elective procedures to limit supplies and make the most of their resources to battle COVID-19.

Scuttling these elective procedures means health systems have lost or anticipate losing large swaths of revenue in the months ahead. Thus, cost reductions are top of mind and a key tactic available to protecting these organization’s long-term health.

Per recent reporting by Becker's Hospital Review, more than 10 health systems are taking action to cut staff where possible. Some of these include:

  • Greenville, South Carolina-based Prisma Health, which said it would furlough clinical, corporate and administrative workers;
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Erlanger Health System is furloughing and reducing the pay of leadership;
  • Cleveland-based St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is furloughing nearly 70 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, including nurses, surgical assistants, clerical and other support staff;
  • Meadville (Pennsylvania) Medical Center furloughed about 225 employees, originally expected to last through April 5, but will likely continue for the near term; warned an extension is possible if the pandemic continues to affect business operations and revenue; and
  • Lewisburg, Pennsylvania-based Evangelical Community Hospital furloughed a "significant" number of employees who are not involved in direct patient care.

Elsewhere, in Boston, Stewart Health Care System told employees, via video, that they were receiving a 20% pay cut, Medscape reports. Other hospitals are making similar moves, although many are not doing so publicly.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare, a 13-hospital system in Lexington, Kentucky, will furlough 500 employees, about 8% of its workforce, to stem the impact of lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the system announced.

These specific cuts were meant to be temporary and to protect employees not involved in direct patient care from contracting COVID-19. The system serves patients in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia and employs about 6,000 people.

Despite these measures, hospitals and health centers may, collectively, receive up to as much as $130 billion as part of a $2 trillion economic stimulus package President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27. The deal may lead to hospitals receiving billions in funds to cover expenses for COVID-19.

The bill also allows for up to $200 million for the Federal Communications Commission to help healthcare providers offering telehealth and at least $250 million to increase the capacity of healthcare facilities.

Most hospitals make the majority of their money through elective procedures. More bed space, ventilators, and personal protective equipment like gloves and masks are now on deck for front line staff dealing with COVID-19, all of which are most important to these organizations. Where they can cut, they cut. Where they can save, they save, especially regarding supplies that ensure they have the needed solutions to tackle the virus.