Baptist Health officials have confirmed that the state’s largest private healthcare system is preparing to realign its workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday (March 30), Troy Wells, Baptist Health CEO, distributed a two-page letter to employees outlining a number of plans related to the coronavirus outbreak.
“While many things are happening in terms of clinical and disaster planning, there is also a lot happening to deal with the financial challenges this pandemic brings. Please know that the actions we are taking are in the best interests of patients, our employees and Baptist Health,” Wells’ memo said.
In the memo, he discussed the financial strains impacting all hospitals and healthcare systems, such as fewer people in the emergency rooms and patients delaying elective care and surgeries. Wells said directors and executives were reducing their salaries “for the coming months.” He said some employees will see reduced shifts due to the reduction in services.
“This week, we will identify additional employees who will be furloughed on a temporary basis,” he said, adding that some benefits would be maintained and assistance would be provided to help access unemployment benefits.
Baptist Health employs about 11,000 workers systemwide at 11 hospitals in communities ranging from Central Arkansas to Fort Smith/Van Buren and parts of south and north Central Arkansas. It also operates multiple clinics and service centers.
With the COVID-19 crisis impacting work environments, altering available bed space and personal protective equipment, and curtailing patient visits for non-emergency care, Wells said the moves were necessary for survival.
“I know these actions will have an impact on you and I want you to know that I understand the gravity of my responsibility,” he said.
Wells said Baptist will hire more bedside caregivers and employees critical to ongoing operations. He said he hoped to call back into service any furloughed employees that may be able to serve in different capacities.
Cara Wade, Baptist System Communications Director, issued a statement on behalf of the organization.
“Our caregivers are the reason why people choose Baptist Health. During this time, protecting their health, safety, and jobs is paramount so we can continue providing great care in the future. As conditions are changing quickly, we are prioritizing some operations to place resources where they are needed most,” she said.
“It is our hope that these actions, along with the support from recently passed federal legislation, will minimize the financial impact to our employees and Baptist Health during this difficult time,” Wade said. “Arkansans are relying on us to be steady and focused. Our staff is working tirelessly to respond to this crisis and ensure that we are thinking ahead to be even stronger in the coming weeks and months.”