SolutionHealth announces furloughs due to pandemic

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MANCHESTER, NH — The COVID-19 pandemic claimed another victim late on Wednesday as SolutionHealth (parent company of Manchester’s Elliot Hospital and Nashua’s Southern NH Medical Center) announced temporary furloughs for 650 employees, reduction in hours for another 750 staff and pay cuts for senior leaders.  The moves, which impact about one-fifth of SolutionHealth’s 7,000-person workforce, come amid the two hospitals preparing for the expected surge in cases later this month.

“Every health system in the country is facing a similar unprecedented situation,” said Sherry Hausmann, President and CEO, SolutionHealth in a written statement.

Hausman went on to say that those furloughed would maintain full benefits and that the system would be working with them to help apply for unemployment benefits including those the recently passed federal stimulus package.

While it may seem a contradiction in terms for a major hospital to be cutting staff while anticipating a rise in need, SolutionHealth and Elliot are unfortunately not unique.  As is the case in health systems across the country, the pandemic has led to widespread cancellation of elective procedures.  This not only results in a significant hit to a hospital’s bottom line but also on its workforce as staff in some areas no longer have work to do. Earlier this week, Catholic Medical Center announced a “low-census leave” due to a reduction in procedures and visits. And last month, Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia cut its workforce by nearly 600.

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Elliot Health Systems main campus in Manchester, NH.

“We are on the front lines of the war against COVID-19,” Hausmann stated,  “and in order to help contain the virus, create capacity for a predicted surge of severely ill patients, and preserve precious personal protective equipment (PPE) SolutionHealth stopped all non-essential activities mid-March—while the right thing to do, this cut our revenue in half.”

As the health system was facing one challenge another was looming.  Hausmann said that to rapidly prepare for the predicted surge, the hospitals needed to purchase equipment and ventilators, cross-train staff and add beds to its acute care areas.  As a result of “these necessary actions,” noted Hausmann, “we estimate we will lose more than $24 million per month. While we do not regret doing all that we can to prepare for the predicted surge of patients to be sure that we are ready to, literally, save lives, we now must take action (the furloughs and other steps) to reduce these unsustainable losses to ensure our viability for the future.”

As of this writing, New Hampshire had logged over 1,100 people testing positive for COVID-19 with more than 30 deaths due to the virus. Some predictive models suggest that NH’s peak surge will be in late April or early May.

Hausmann concluded her statement by commending the employees of her organization.  “On behalf of our Board and system leadership, we are extremely proud of the effort, commitment, and support of all our staff during this challenging time. We stand ready, in partnership with the other hospitals in Manchester and Nashua, for the predicted surge in patients. We are also focused on ensuring that we can rapidly resume all services and care activities to both continue to care for our community as they expect from us—and also to bring our furloughed employees back to work as quickly as possible as the virus subsides.”


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Chris Dugan

Chris Dugan is a regular contributor to Manchester Ink Link and writes the Medical Matters column.