PIKEVILLE, KY (WOWK) – Pikeville Medical Center has released plans to furlough around 200 employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The medical center says the decision comes as many healthcare centers around the country are also forced to furlough workers in order to balance and manage expenses while some services such as elective surgeries have been halted. The furloughs at PMC will be effective April 26, 2020.
“We are thankful that our government leaders have understood the necessity to support and financially assist hospitals and our most important asset, our dedicated staff members,” says Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) CEO and Vice President of the Board of Directors, Donovan Blackburn.
PMC says with Governor Andy Beshear Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack of the with the Kentucky Department for Public Health announced Phase 1 of reopening will start Monday, permitting diagnostic treatments, physical therapy, optometry, radiology, non-urgent and emergent procedures, in-person office visits, ambulatory visits and pre-anesthesia testing services to begin opening if they meet the necessary criteria. Due to the announcement, PMC says it withdrew an additional 55 employees that were originally selected to be furloughed in order to support the services set to reopen on Monday. PMC says as soon as permissible and safe, elective surgical procedures will begin again and furloughed employees will be called back as business begins improving day by day.
Blackburn says, “We must protect our most valuable assets, our employees, while performing our fiduciary responsibility to this institution to try to ensure its sustainability for generations to come, while still ensuring we are focused on providing the necessary healthcare for our patients.”
State and federal leaders have announced furloughed employees will qualify for unemployment benefits, as long as they meet the state’s unemployment criteria. Kentucky has also relaxed the rules for qualifying for unemployment benefits and has removed the initial waiting period. The federal government’s stimulus plan has also temporarily increased the amount of unemployment benefits that a person can receive.
“We feel that the combination of state and federal government benefits will create circumstances where the employees that we furlough will experience no negative financial impact on their base pay,” says Blackburn. “Based on information we have received to date, we believe that some people may even receive more in unemployment benefits than they were earning in wages while working.”
Employees are also allowed to use their accrued vacation time during the furlough, if they choose. According to PMC, with their continued payment of the premium when due, they can also continue their health insurance coverage through PMC’s health plan. When they are called back to active duty, they will see no reduction of their earned vacation or sick hours as well.
“We expect and sincerely hope this furlough will have a short duration,” says Blackburn. “There is a plan to reopen hospitals. Phase one will start Monday, as the Governor will permit the opening of several departments. If all goes as planned, then Phase two will follow.”
Blackburn says he is hopeful that this plan will enable PMC to operate at an increased capacity by June or early July.