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Wellstar announces temporary furloughs for 1,070 team members

'The financial reality is that, despite treating COVID-19 patients, our patient volumes overall have been drastically reduced since mid-March.'

ATLANTA — Although hospitals and healthcare systems have been hard at work during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have still been impacted financially during these unprecedented times.

Wellstar Health System announced temporary furloughs for 1,070 team members through July 31. Wellstar said it employs about 24,300 team members - so the furloughs will impact about 4.4 percent.

Wellstar said its employees affected will retain their healthcare benefits, have the option to use paid time off to minimize the financial impact, and many should qualify for support from the CARES Act.

They company said they are also implementing a temporary reduction in hours for a number of team members who were experiencing low work volume. Wellstar said this represents about 7.66 percent of the workforce - 1,861 people.

“I am proud of the way our team members have served the needs of our patients and communities during this pandemic. They are all healthcare heroes to me. The financial reality is that, despite treating COVID-19 patients, our patient volumes overall have been drastically reduced since mid-March, leaving many of our team members with a substantially reduced workload," said Candice Saunders, president and chief executive officer for Wellstar Health System.

"While we expect patient volumes to gradually return to near-normal levels during the fourth quarter of the year, Wellstar is facing hundreds of millions of dollars in a financial deficit for 2020, even with the expected CARES Act provider funding relief," Saunders added.

RELATED: Georgia Dept. of Public Heath distributes remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19

The news release said the furloughs come following a number of cost-saving measures, including a hiring freeze and elimination of contract labor, and a reduction of expenses and capital expenditures. 

They've also eliminated overtime and bonuses and are adjusting senior executive and physician pay.

RELATED: Georgia and North Carolina | How neighbors compare on COVID-19

Healthcare systems across the country have been put in a similar boat when it comes to finance.

According to a new analysis from data scientists at Strata Decision Technology, hospitals are experiencing significant volume drops in key service line areas.

The scientists discovered that across all service lines and in every region of the country, the number of unique patients who sought care in a hospital setting decreased on average by 54.5 percent.

Strata linked the drop to the cancellation of elective surgeries along with resource constraints and concerns for the safety of patients and staff. The analysis also mentioned that healthcare providers are dealing with higher costs due to COVID-19. Things like purchasing more personal protective equipment, ventilators, expanding lab and testing capacity all come at a price.

RELATED: Current hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Georgia dip below 1,000

Wellstar said their patient volumes reduced when elective procedures were pushed back.

"When elective procedures were postponed and steps were taken to successfully flatten the curve, resources were redirected to help contain the spread of COVID-19," Wellstar’s Chief Financial Officer, Jim Budzinski, said. 

"While our actions were necessary, they significantly reduced our patient volumes and impacted our financial stability. We are taking strategic measures that will enable us to continue providing personalized patient care and services, both now and in the future," Budzinski added. 

Wellstar said their patient volumes have started to improve some this month when many of its normal services returned. Wellstar added they believe the near-normal patient volumes will be much more gradual than the dramatic decline they saw in mid-March.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.

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