As local hospitals begin to resume “business as usual,” some are reeling from the financial impact of stalling non-emergency services over the past several months.
Though these services were halted in anticipation of an oncoming wave of COVID-19 patients, Calaveras County has seen 26 confirmed cases thus far and only one reported hospitalization.
Since March, hospital staff have been stockpiling supplies and working to sustain adequate capacity and staffing levels in preparation for a worst-case scenario.
“Hospitals have stepped up to respond to this unprecedented public health crisis,” Mark Twain Medical Center (MTMC) spokesperson Nicki Stevens told the Enterprise on June 1. “We had to postpone most scheduled services and procedures, which has caused some significant financial challenges.”
According to External Communications Manager Chad Burns, layoffs have not been imposed due to the coronavirus within the Dignity Health system, which operates MTMC.
MTMC in San Andreas is now resuming some operations, with guidance from national health authorities. Its affiliated clinics in San Andreas, Angels Camp, Copperopolis and Arnold are now open, by appointment only.
“We won’t be able to provide every service right away,” Stevens said. “Rather, this will be a gradual process, with the most urgent procedures being prioritized using a process created by our clinical teams. Serving our communities is our calling, and safely resuming these procedures is one of the best ways we can help our communities heal. ”
At Adventist Health Sonora, approximately 100 employees were laid off due to staffing levels needing to match current patient volume, according to spokesperson Karen O’Brien. Other reductions have included flexing staff, furloughing positions, reducing hours or salaries and permanently reducing positions.
“Like hospitals throughout the nation, we suffered significant losses due to temporarily stopping non-emergency surgeries, office visits and diagnostic services as we prepared for an expected surge of COVID patients,” O’Brien said on May 29. “We have since resumed many of these services with additional safety measures, but visits are still far below what is expected for this time of year.”
Tuolumne County has seen some of the fewest case numbers in the state, with just nine cases reported and no hospitalizations.
Adventist Health has continued to provide medical, dental and vision benefits during employee layoffs, O’Brien said, though it remains uncertain when some may return to work as patient volume remains low.
“We are making every effort to minimize the impacts of this pandemic on our associates and provide them with support,” O’Brien said. “We are working diligently to bring associates back to work as we experience increases in patient volume and are prepared to call staff back as soon as the needs arise, whether we need to address a surge of COVID-19 cases or meet other patient and community needs.”