State looks to help as Baptist, others reassign, furlough staff, cut leaders’ pay

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Buffeted by unprecedented medical and operational challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baptist Health is temporarily reassigning some staff, putting some workers on unpaid furloughs, and cutting leaders pay by up to 20 percent, the health care group said in a statement.

UK HealthCare is also making temporary staff changes, according to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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The cuts and changes are the latest in a series sweeping health care providers across the state. And they are serious, including pay cuts and layoffs at some facilities.

In his daily briefing Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said the state is working on assistance options but is partially handicapped by delays in rules from the federal government on stimulus programs approved two weeks ago.

Among the programs on which the state is working are bridge loans and diverting Medicaid money to help stem the tide of red ink.



“We understand these people made sacrifices, they cut elective surgeries and procedures. They made sacrifices that decimated their balance sheets,” Beshear said.

The federal stimulus money will help, but it makes significant difference on whether the state must first provide the money and then get reimbursed.

“If we have to spend $1.8 billion and then get reimbursed, we can’t do that,” the governor said.

It’s unclear how long any of the changes might remain in place and whether pay cuts will be restored once the pandemic is over.

“Like other hospitals across the country, Baptist Health is striking a delicate balance between maintaining a strong front line of skilled caregivers to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, while grappling with the resulting drain on resources,” said Gerard Colman, Baptist Health CEO.

“After much thoughtful deliberation, we are re-prioritizing and reassigning some staff to serve where needed most, which is at the bedside providing patient care, and in our communities identifying those at risk for COVID-19,” Colman added.

“Focusing on these two critical needs is allowing us to best care for our patients and limit the spread of the virus.”

Government efforts to curtail the spread of the virus – such as suspending elective surgeries and diagnostic tests – have slowed, or put on hold, some standard business operations and reduced work volumes.

To address these limitations and counter increased expenses related to COVID-19, top leaders with Baptist Health and the Baptist Health Medical Group – including system C-suite members and hospital presidents — will take a 20 percent pay cut.

Other vice presidents and executive leaders will take a 15 percent pay cut.

Baptist Health is also implementing temporary unpaid furloughs across the eight-hospital system, the Baptist Health Medical Group and the System Services Center (corporate headquarters).

The temporary furloughs, announced to all employees on Thursday, affect regular full-time and part-time employees in jobs that do not support caregivers or are not critical to clinical operations related to COVID-19.

The number of affected employees has not been finalized.

Furloughed workers will be eligible for unemployment compensation, plus remain eligible for their medical benefits.

Some will have a reduced work schedule while others will not have any job responsibilities during their furlough.

“Our intent is to return to normal operations as soon as possible, and begin calling back employees. This is just a temporary measure,” said Colman. “We value our employees, who are the key to our success, and will continue to be the key to our success going forward. But, first and foremost, we need to ensure we will be here when our communities need us most.”

UK HealthCare says some staff members will be reassigned in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and the temporary halt of elective medical procedures.  Employees who can’t be moved to a different department will have to use accrued vacation, holiday or bonus leave days.  When the workers run out of accrued time off, they can apply for unemployment benefits, according to the Herald-Leader report.