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Coronavirus: Cape Fear Valley To Furlough Staff In Response To Low Census

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Cape Fear Valley Health will temporarily furlough approximately 350 employees starting today and continuing over the next week. On March 27, the health system furloughed approximately 300 staff due to the temporary closing of some services and rescheduling of elective surgeries and procedures.

Since then, inpatient occupancy at its flagship hospital, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, has dropped to 60 percent. Normally, the hospital stays at full occupancy year round. The health system’s other hospitals are also at low occupancy.

Hospitals nationwide feel the financial pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have recently furloughed staff, including Tennessee-based Erlanger Health System, Boston Medical Center, Appalachian Regional Healthcare in Lexington, Ky., and eight hospitals in Trinity Health’s Michigan region.

“The public’s acceptance of visitor restrictions in our hospitals, as well as social distancing and sheltering in place orders have helped keep our patients and staff safe,” said Michael Nagowski, Cape Fear Valley Health CEO. “It has also kept our census low so that we can better accommodate the anticipated surge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the low census also means our staffing needs are reduced.”

To help reduce expenses, directors and managers will be asked to take one day off per pay period. Vice presidents will be asked to take one day off per week.

Full-time employees on furlough will continue to receive their health insurance benefits with the health system paying the full cost of such premiums during the furlough. This includes family coverage if they elected that at annual benefit enrollment. Employees may use their accrued paid time off.

“Once the pandemic subsides and we can open all services to full capacity, furloughed employees will be called back to work,” Nagowski said.

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