Penn Highlands Healthcare Adjusts Staffing To Ensure Financial Stability Amid Current Pandemic

Over the past several weeks, healthcare organizations across the country have experienced unprecedented changes in the economics of the health care delivery system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals large and small have canceled many elective services, often under state government orders, as they prepare for the virus, sending revenues plummeting.

The situation is a catch-22 of sorts. As some hospitals in “hot spots” like New York City, Detroit, Seattle and New Orleans deal with a surge of patients affected by the pandemic, hospitals in less affected regions of the country, like Penn Highlands Healthcare, are seeing a dramatic decline in elective surgeries and procedures as well as preventive care visits and outpatient testing. In the past two to three weeks alone, Penn Highlands Healthcare has seen its volumes system-wide decline by over 40 percent.

In response, Penn Highlands Healthcare has reduced its staffing levels across its five-hospital system by approximately 600 employees to ensure the health system’s ongoing financial stability. This effort was completed through furloughs (through May 31), layoffs and the elimination of outside agency staffing. These measures will take effect immediately and will not compromise patient care or safety.

“This was a difficult decision to make, but if we did not take meaningful and decisive action, the long-term viability of our health system is at risk,” said Penn Highlands Healthcare CEO Steven Fontaine. “I hope we will be able to recall many of these affected workers once the pandemic subsides and volumes increase.

“We are very fortunate that we have not seen a surge of COVID-19 related cases in the Penn Highlands Healthcare system,” stated Fontaine, “but as our patients shelter in place we have seen dramatic reductions in daily patient volumes across our hospitals and physician offices and we must adjust staffing accordingly.”

Fontaine stressed that the Penn Highlands Healthcare’s five hospitals remain open 24/7 to meet the needs of its patients.

Penn Highlands Healthcare has implemented visitor restrictions, entrance screenings, and “parking lot waiting rooms” to enhance the safety of patients accessing its facilities for care. Virtual visits are also being offered by most of its physicians and providers.