Following the lead of hospitals across the country, Cayuga Medical Center has implemented a temporary voluntary furlough program to maintain financial stability, as canceled elective surgeries have strained hospital revenues.
Around 200 full-time CMC employees accepted a furlough offer, the Ithaca Times reported on April 21. The voluntary furlough program is the latest staffing adjustment made to compensate for a 50 percent decline in patient volume, according to Dr. Martin Stallone, chief executive officer of Cayuga Health, in a statement to The Sun.
This move comes after Cayuga Health, a network that runs Cayuga Medical and Schuyler Hospital, reassigned some employees to its coronavirus testing center at the Shops at Ithaca Mall and sent others to support New York City hospitals.
Cayuga Health said it has been helping staff better understand the benefits that are available to them before they make the decision to volunteer to be furloughed.
Hospital spokesperson John Turner told the Ithaca Times that employees that elect to be voluntarily furloughed will retain their health insurance, be eligible to apply for state and federal unemployment benefits, and will receive a stipend after returning to work.
However, Stallone said the majority of Cayuga Health’s workforce remains “on the job.”
CMC stressed that the furlough program will be short term, especially after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that starting this week, elective surgeries can resume in hospitals located in counties deemed to have a low risk of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Tompkins County falls in that category along with most counties in the Upstate region, except neighboring Schuyler County, where the state continues to monitor the rate of new COVID-19 infections.
Non-essential surgeries have been postponed at Cayuga Medical since March 20 to direct medical resources toward treating COVID-19 patients and to help curb the spread of the virus.
As elective procedures are typically a hospital’s most lucrative service, the wave of cancellations has sharply cut into Cayuga Medical’s bottom-line, making cost reduction a priority.
“Earlier this month, I met with my senior leadership team as we agreed that more will be needed to maintain our financial health as one of the largest employers in Tompkins County,” Stallone said in a statement.
As a result, the medical center announced significant concessions to cut expenses, including a reduction in senior leadership salaries.
Cuomo has said that states will eventually reopen on a regional basis, giving hope that healthcare systems may soon get much-needed financial relief. In addition, the governor announced monetary and administrative aid for all New York State hospitals, with a focus on community, rural and safety-net hospitals.
“We want to emphasize that we expect all of our employees to return to work when our volumes and revenue return to normal levels after New York State implements its re-open plan,” Stallone said.