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Hospitals hit by virus

Hundreds of local workers furloughed

By ADAM URQUHART - Staff Writer | Apr 17, 2020

The main entrance on the Prospect Street side of Southern New Hampshire Medical Center was devoid of foot traffic Thursday afternoon. The hospital's parent company announced furloughs and salary reductions on Thursday. Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP

NASHUA – Hundreds of hospital staff members in Nashua and Manchester have been temporarily furloughed as health care officials navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

Sherry Hausmann, president and CEO of SolutionHealth, announced that 650 staff members between both hospitals have been temporarily furloughed, while a 15 percent salary reduction has been implemented for SolutionHealth senior leaders. SolutionHealth is the parent company of Nashua’s Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and Manchester’s Elliot Health System.

Suzanne Tammaro, vice president of market and development, the furloughs are temporary. Those employees who have been furloughed still will maintain full benefits, and officials will work with them to apply for unemployment benefits. Additional changes also have been implemented, including approximately 750 employees who now are working reduced hours or have a reduced salary as a result of low activity in their work settings. SolutionHealth employs about 7,000 people, and approximately 20 percent of their workforce has been impacted by the changes.

“… The employees that have been affected by this are largely nonessential people,” Tammaro said.

A lot of off-site practices have been pivoting more toward telemedicine, and there are other staff in those practices and businesses offices that either do not have much to do or nothing to do. Some of those nonessential staff include areas such as phlebotomists, radiology and other types of support that are necessary in an ambulatory setting, or non-hospital setting. To ensure social distancing and safe patient care, officials have decided to consolidate.

“There’s a couple of labs that are open, there are a couple of X-ray facilities that are open, and all of the staff that are needed to run those off-site may not be needed right now,” Tammaro said.

Over the last several weeks, officials have been evaluating and assessing operations so they are respectful of the people who either do not have work to do or people who have been part of the COVID-19 challenge, and for COVID-19-related reasons cannot work because they do not have child care or have sick family members, for example. Tammaro said there are a lot of people who can work remotely and support the system from home, but that there are a lot of people who do not have work to do.

“With all of this social distancing, there’s not as much needed for acute care,” Tammaro said. “Yes, people are still having heart attacks and still having babies and still getting hurt and injured, but it seems like the need for care has diminished somewhat, and it probably is because people are staying close to home and there’s not as much happening.”

SolutionHealth stopped all nonessential activities in mid-March, which has cut their revenue in half, officials said. Thursday’s announcement states they have invested in rapid preparation for the predicted surge of patients by purchasing ventilators and personal protective equipment, cross training staff for redeployment and are adding more than 100 beds to acute care settings. Officials estimate they will lose more than $24 million per month.

A telemedicine model has been implemented at each of the hospitals to ensure patients still can receive care safely and effectively.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.

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