Palomar Health has issued temporary layoff notices to 221 of its part-time and per diem employees. The temporary layoffs will last for 21 days, at which point staffing will be reassessed.
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.
In an internal email sent to NBC7.com, the company CEO said Palomar Health said the past several weeks have “put a financial strain on our health system; up to $800,000 in lost revenue each day.”
But the decision has drawn the ire of the local nurses union representative at Palomar Medical Center.
“It's very frustrating because the business that we’re in here at Palomar Health is to take care of the community, so to make decisions on dollars only, to me is irresponsible and does not reflect our mission, which is to take care of the community of Escondido, San Marcos and all of its outlying areas," said Sue Phillips, RN.
Phillips noted the decision to lay off workers comes just days after Palomar Health touted its roll in a 250-bed federal hospital planned at Palomar Medical Center if needed.
“We’re a public health district and we’re supposed to be taking care of the public and it seems very bad timing in the midst of a health crisis like this, that we would be laying off caregivers and nurses,” said Phillips.
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.
“I understand when they say they don’t want to have people at work, and they’re paying them to do nothing, but I believe that in a week, we’re going to be in dire straights and now we’ve sent these nurses and caregivers into the unknown,” said Phillips.