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Central Maine Healthcare, which has hospitals in Lewiston, Rumford and Bridgton, is furloughing about 330 of its approximately 3,200 employees, and top executives are taking a paycut, as it scales back elective procedures and postpones appointments amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As patient volume has decreased, revenues have seen a steep drop, Kate Carlisle, director of public relations and community affairs for Central Maine Healthcare, said. At the same time, Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Rumford Hospital and Bridgton Hospital have to be prepared for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases. They may recall employees as needed.
“Furloughs like this are one way that we can adjust and manage the balance sheet appropriately,” she said Wednesday morning. “It also allows us to do that without having to sacrifice jobs permanently, without having to end the provision of care. It really is one of the tools in the toolbox for keeping the doors open and continuing to provide all this quality care without having to make bigger sacrifices down the line.”
Employees are being asked to use their accrued paid time off, called “choice time,” to receive pay for part or all of their furlough, Carlisle said. If they run out of choice time, the furlough will be unpaid, or workers can apply for unemployment benefits.
The health care organization is asking employees to use their choice time to ensure they can continue to receive pay in the short-term, given an overwhelmed unemployment system, Carlisle said.
“They don’t have to wait two weeks, or three weeks, for unemployment,” Carlisle said. “We wanted to make sure that all those who could would not see a gap in their pay.”
Furloughed employees will retain their health benefits, and the system will pick up the cost of what would normally be the employees’ contribution.
Sixty-four percent of the furloughed workers volunteered to take the leave.
Senior executives, including CEO Jeff Brickman, are also taking a paycut, Carlisle said. Other leaders are deferring compensation between 5 and 10 percent.
“We don’t expect any of these temporary leaves to last more than 90 days. In many, many cases, they might be much shorter than that,” Carlisle said. “The idea was to create as much flexibility for the system so that we could recall employees to work as soon as possible. That’s why there’s no set time on these leaves.”
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