Health

Mercy Medical Center staff in Cedar Rapids to have unpaid leave, furloughs

A health care worker sits in a screening area outside Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 27, 2020. (R
A health care worker sits in a screening area outside Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — More than 200 Mercy Medical Center employees will be placed on furloughs or leave, a decision reflecting the significant financial headwinds the Cedar Rapids hospital — and other health systems nationwide — face from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The personnel decision was part of Mercy Medical officials’ efforts to ensure that the system’s financial strength continues “now and into the future,” according to a statement Friday to The Gazette confirming the staffing changes.

Forty-eight employees will be temporarily furloughed, including 30 who face “partial” furloughs with fewer hours.

An additional 157 staffers and those in leadership positions will be required to take either paid or unpaid leave.

Officials did not clarify to The Gazette when these staffing changes would begin or how many of the 157 employees would be unpaid.

The action will affect more than 6 percent of the employees of the hospital and its clinics.

“This is an exceedingly difficult decision. We are mindful of the very human impact this has on affected employees and everyone in the organization,” Mercy President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Charles said in a statement.

“This is not what we had envisioned for this year but, unfortunately, it’s something we and so many hospitals are facing right now,” he continued. “Our full intention is that these temporary changes will strengthen our ability to achieve our mission and serve the community well into the future.”

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As with many hospitals, Mercy Medical has faced “financial burdens” due to “this unprecedented time” as a result of the pandemic.

Not only did the suspension of elective procedures in the spring take a major blow to profit margins, but patients have been slower to return for more routine care than officials had hoped.

While Mercy Medical still sees a high volume of patients in its inpatient hospital services, officials said outpatient services have had lower volumes than normal. According to officials, not as many patients are seeking care as before the pandemic began.

That’s coupled with the cost of repairs the hospital has faced following the Aug. 10 derecho.

“The hopes of a rapid recovery have given way to the prospect of a slower and a longer recovery,” the Mercy Medical statement said.

What support that has come from the federal government has been limited and “has only covered a small fraction of the revenue that has been lost,” Mercy officials said. “The signal from Washington is that additional relief will not be forthcoming soon, if ever.”

Furloughs will be occurring in non-clinical areas and clinical departments currently facing low patient volumes.

Officials emphasized the decision will not affect Mercy Medical’s ability to meet the demand of COVID-19 patients, as well as the needs in other areas with higher patient volumes.

“Mercy’s goal is to ensure appropriate staffing to match patient volumes and needs while ensuring safe, high-quality care,” according to the statement.

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Those on furlough will retain their benefits, and the organization will have the ability to call back employees on leave should patient volumes increase.

“Mercy is grateful for the dedication and flexibility its staff has shown during this pandemic,” according to the statement.

“We appreciate their flexibility in confidently taking on whatever challenges we face as an organization and working together to support one another and the community we serve.”

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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