Huntsville Hospital cutting jobs, says focused on retaining clinical personnel, trimming losses

Coronavirus

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said Wednesday the hospital is cutting jobs, primarily of support personnel, as the hospital tries to manage its finances amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spillers discussed the cuts, which include, layoffs, furloughs and reductions in hours, following Wednesday’s Huntsville-area COVID-19 briefing.

He did not provide any figures on how many employees are affected. The hospital’s website says it has 14,000 employees system-wide.

Spillers was asked why nursing personnel would be reduced during a period where hospitals are deeply concerned about having enough medical personnel to handle the virus outbreak.

He said they are trying to make cuts as “thoughtfully” as they can, and to avoid losing clinical workers – those who have direct contact with patients.

Spillers said while nurses that work in areas like orthopedic surgery have seen sharp cuts in their hours, the goal is to retain clinical personnel amid the pandemic. He said the hospital system, which includes hospitals in Huntsville, Madison, Athens, Decatur, Sheffield, Moulton and Red Bay, has shifts for nurses who want to work in other areas, including nursing station shifts and ICU.

He said the “flex” staffing system has affected a number of nurses, meaning they are working fewer hours. Spillers said some of that can be cushioned by accrued time off.

“We have been looking at workforce cutbacks, not directly related to patient care. Anywhere we can reduce hours,” Spillers said.

Spillers said areas like cleaning staff and cafeteria personnel are affected, along with hospital construction-related work.

He said millions and millions of dollars will be lost every month the pandemic goes on. Spillers said this has been the first week since the pandemic began that the hospital has taken steps to actively address the financial management side of its operations.

Spillers said the hospital’s business has slowed sharply amid the virus outbreak, with its higher revenue areas, like elective surgeries, shut down. At the same time, he said, costs have gone up as the hospital looks for supplies to handle a feared spike in new COVID-19 cases.

Spillers said in some cases they decided layoffs were appropriate to allow employees to become eligible for unemployment, other workers are furloughed.

He said they are looking at the cuts on a short-term basis, 30 days, and continuing to assess.

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