By Jennifer Mayerle

Coronavirus: Latest News | Community Resources | COVID-19 Info | Download Our App | CBSN Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Health care companies are making hard decisions about staffing as they prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

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Essentia Health in Duluth cut 500 non-medical staff. Fairview Health Services says it’s looking at reducing staffing. They report revenue is down as elective and non-critical procedures have been postponed. And there’s an increase in spending for new equipment and supplies.

Hospitals across Minnesota are at the heart of the war against the pandemic, as cases climb daily. Kristy Ricks is a concerned nurse at Fairview Southdale.

“It’s kind of the calm before the storm. We all can kind of feel it at the hospital,” Ricks said.

She has been in the field for 30-plus years, and helps prep people for surgery and cares for them when they get out. With elective surgeries on hold, she’s worried about her job.

“They’re looking at furloughs, which means people could be reduced by at least half. Fairview is willing to keep at least half their salary and the rest of it would be by unemployment,” Ricks said.

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M Health Fairview says it’s evaluating staffing needs at all positions, levels and specialties and facilities. It’s the result of an expected revenue decline of one-third. Fairview Health Services President and CEO James Hereford gave WCCO this statement:

We are deeply grateful to all of our employees for the heroic work they are doing during this unprecedented crisis. The changes we’re making now are needed to ensure the long-term health of our system, so it can serve the community throughout this crisis and beyond.

People on the front lines that are caring for patients with COVID-19 are not expected to be impacted. Others could be redirected. Ricks says this is not the time to reduce the hours of skilled employees.

“We’re nurses, we care, we want to be there, we want to do our job, we want to help people out,” Ricks said.

M Health Fairview is evaluating all of this right now. It expects to reduce hours beginning April 6, and go through May 3. Employer benefits will still be paid during that time.

WCCO has also learned that some staff at HealthPartners’ facilities are seeing reduced hours, a temporary movement to another department, or the use of time-off or other leave practices. But so far, no layoffs.

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Jennifer Mayerle