Flint, MI—As has happened with hospitals across the nation, a major drop in patient influx due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Hurley Medical Center to enact voluntary and involuntary pay reductions and layoffs.
Hurley spokesperson Laura Jasso said the institution is currently “faced with financial challenges caused by reduced patient volumes including surgeries and other elective procedures.”
According to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, Hurley as of Thursday, May 21 has a bed occupancy rate of 79%, the fourth-highest in the state. This puts the hospital below Detroit Medical Center and Michigan Medicine, both of which have reported and 89% occupancy rate.
As a result of this, Hurley has suffered a deep cut to its revenue.
The hospital’s official statement says the number of laid-off workers and pay reductions “is not known at this time as the analysis is still ongoing.”
Karlee Weissend, a recently laid-off emergency room nurse at Hurley who started working there in late January, says she knows of a few colleagues who are experiencing a similar situation. “As I’ve heard, all of … the people I came in with, they were all laid-off. That was at least nine of us,” she said.
Weissend said she knew layoffs would most likely be an eventuality when she saw the number of patients she was working with on a daily basis go down. “(My manager) brought me into the office and he said ‘you know, our numbers are not where we need them to be at … we are going to have to drop your status.’”
Despite the bad news, Weissend said she understood the need for layoffs. “When he told me that, I wasn’t upset. I more so understood … I told him ‘You have to do what you have to do,’” Weissend said. “Right after that he went down the line with the new orientees that were working that day … as I checked in with them, I asked ‘Hey, is this happening to you?’ and they’d say ‘Yup, I’ve been laid-off,’” Weissend said.
At first, Weissend thought only new hires like her who were taking part in a 14 week-long orientation program were the ones being laid-off. Soon though, she started hearing about nurses with more seniority meeting the same fate.
“Then I started to hear that nurses who’d been working for one or two years had been laid-off. That’s kind of weird—is this really happening? I kept saying ‘You know it’s an issue [when] a nurse is laid-off,’” Weissend said. “That’s always why I’ve wanted to go into nursing, you know. That job security that we have. I was surprised.”
Throughout the entire process, Weissend said Hurley helped her with providing information for applying for unemployment. “I’ve never felt like my manager has not had my back thus far.”
Though according to her, she was promised one shift per pay period, Weissend said she received an email soon after stating she would not be receiving any shifts for the foreseeable future.
What left Weissend equally worried was the idea that if nurses from a variety of experience levels were all being laid-off, those nurses who were left would be overworked.
“How is this going to work?” she said. “The nurses that aren’t getting laid off, where is their relief gonna be?
Weissend said they have a low patient count, but nurses are still working long shifts.
“We are still working those 12-hour shifts, we’re still working six days in a row. The people that work there are amazing, and I think about them every day. It must be exhausting,” she said.