Dozens of people gathered outside Palomar Medical Center Poway on Monday to show their support for hundreds of Palomar Health workers who were temporarily laid off amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Demonstrators stood side by side, six feet apart, with signs and face coverings in support of the health care workers. Drivers honked their horns in solidarity as they passed.
Last week, Palomar Health has issued temporary layoff notices to 221 of its part-time and per diem employees, including 83 Registered Nurses and 63 caregivers. The temporary layoffs will last for 21 days, at which point staffing will be reassessed.
Many of the demonstrators were medical workers, including Palomar Health Registered Nurse Sue Phillips, who called the layoffs "irresponsible."
"These nurses are on the front line, all of the nurses and caregivers, and it’s very disconcerting to think that we are going to bare-bones staff over dollars versus thinking about what our mission is – to take care of the community," Phillips said.
In a statement, Palomar Health said it suspended all non-emergency surgeries and outpatient services as of March 18. In that time, the company said it has experienced a significant loss in revenue while incurring additional costs for supplies and equipment to keep staff and patients safe.
The company CEO told NBC 7 the past several weeks has “put a financial strain on our health system; up to $800,000 in lost revenue each day."
Palomar Health says the temporary layoffs impact less than 5% of its workforce, and the positions affected were from surgery and outpatient departments, which have been significantly impacted by suspended services due to COVID-19. The remaining positions were support roles not directly related to patient care. There was no impact to inpatient bedside care positions, according to a statement from Palomar Health.
Phillips, who is also the Chief Nurses Union Representative, says the layoffs hurt the rest of the hospital, and in turn all of San Diego, because the staff that remains is dealing with the spread of COVID-19.
“Many of those nurses and caregivers have worked in other departments and are willing to renew their competencies and be ready to help in other areas," she said.
‘It’s irresponsible because, again, if one or two days from now we have this huge spike in the patient population, how do you pull these nurses back?" Phillips questioned. "What are you going to do?"