Around 200 full-time employees have taken a voluntary furlough offer from Cayuga Medical Center, the hospital confirmed on Tuesday.
The hospital's administration sounded optimistic that the move would only be temporary and that those employees would be brought back at the appropriate time, once the state begins to re-open. Since mid-March, New York has introduced widespread measures that have encouraged people to stay inside in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The move has seemingly helped address the spread of the disease to a certain extent, though it has come at a brutal economic cost too; hospitals were told to cancel all elective surgeries, sapping a major source of income for them.
Dr. Martin Stallone, the CEO of Cayuga Health Systems, said that since early March the hospital leadership has taken certain steps to tackle the short-term obstacles of reduced volume and resources, highlighting re-assigning employees to the mobile sampling center in the Shops at Ithaca Mall parking lot and sending 51 medical workers to New York City hospitals earlier this month to help address the outbreak's severe impact there.
“Like all hospitals throughout our region, Cayuga Medical Center is experiencing a roughly 50 percent reduction in hospital volume, due to COVID-19 and the resulting nationwide shutdown," Stallone said in a statement to the Ithaca Times. "Earlier this month, I met with my senior leadership team as we agreed that more will be needed to maintain our financial health as one of the largest employers in Tompkins County. As a result, we announced significant concessions to cut expenses and the reduction of our senior leadership’s salaries. We also announced a temporary voluntary furlough for employees. We have been working with our staff to help them better understand the benefits which are available to them prior to their final decision on whether to take a voluntary furlough."
As mentioned before, about 200 employees had chosen the voluntary furlough program so far. Cayuga Medical Center employs 1500 people total, according to hospital spokesperson John Turner. He said the hospital believes the number of total employees they need to take the furlough for CMC to retain stability should stop right around the current number of 200. Turner said employees who choose the furlough will be able to retain their health insurance, apply for state unemployment payments and pandemic unemployment assistance and will receive a stipend upon returning to work.
The hospital did receive some good news on Tuesday morning when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that some hospitals in upstate New York could be eligible to restart elective surgeries. Those had been restricted earlier in the quarantine period in order to prepare hospitals for potentially overwhelming COVID-19 caseloads. Considering the total number of cases, and particularly hospitalizations, in Tompkins County hasn't been too bad, Turner said they are optimistic that CMC will be able to begin offering elective surgeries again.
"The majority of our Cayuga Health workforce remains on the job," Stallone said. "We want to emphasize that we expect all of our employees to return to work when our volumes and revenue return to normal levels after New York State implements its re-open plan."