The parent company of Tufts Medical Center on Thursday announced temporary layoffs and reduced hours for nearly 2,000 of its employees, the latest hospital system to make cuts amid a sudden drop in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.
Executives at Wellforce, which includes Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Lowell General Hospital, and MelroseWakefield Hospital, said 719 employees would be furloughed for 90 days, while another 1,236 would have their hours reduced. Together, these employees account for 15 percent of the health system’s workforce.
Hospitals have been canceling surgeries and nonurgent appointments to respond to the coronavirus, which has cut into their bottom lines and abruptly left many employees without steady work.
“We were the first in Boston to cancel elective and discretionary inpatient and outpatient services; we have paused important projects, suspended basic science research programs and more,” Wellforce chief executive Mike Dandorph said in a statement. “This has led to a substantial decrease in our revenue, while at the same time we have needed to expend significant resources to prepare for a surge of very ill patients.”
Boston Medical Center announced furloughs this week of about 700 employees, roughly 10 percent of its workforce. Steward Health Care, which operates several community hospitals in Massachusetts, also furloughed employees but declined to say how many. The large physician group Atrius Health, meanwhile, furloughed some workers and cut pay for others.
The furloughed workers at Wellforce mostly work in administrative roles, officials said. They will be paid through April 18 and can use their earned time off during the 90-day layoff period. They will continue to receive health insurance coverage during their time away from work, and they are eligible for government unemployment benefits, Wellforce said.
Wellforce executives also plan to cut their pay for the next three months, following similar moves by management at Boston Medical Center and Beth Israel Lahey Health.
At Tufts Medical Center, the furloughs apply to 320 employees, while another 350 will work reduced hours.
Tufts is losing millions of dollars in revenue from canceled surgeries and appointments while spending more than $1 million on supplies and other expenses to take care of coronavirus patients, spokesman Jeremy Lechan said.
“Coronavirus has changed how health care is delivered,” he said in a statement. “We do not know how long this crisis will last, but we must think ahead to ensure we can keep our doors open for our community long-term.”
Labor unions, including the Massachusetts Nurses Association, oppose furloughs and have called for halting staff reductions during the pandemic.