Hospital wants volunteers for layoffs as NJ COVID-19 cases grow
Just as the state is ramping up efforts to get more medical workers ready to face what it says will be an onslaught of novel coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, a Somers Point hospital is asking employees to volunteer for layoffs.
However, in a statement sent to New Jersey 101.5 Tuesday, the hospital said doctors and nurses won't be affected.
“Perhaps, prior to COVID-19, you have thought about leaving the organization, for one reason or another, in the next few months?" Shore Medical Center said in a letter published by NBC Philadelphia. "If you are interested in volunteering for layoff, we may be able to meet that need dependent on department operations.”
It told employees the hospital had invested "significant resources" in equipment to protect its staff members who were treating COVID-19 patients, and had suffered a "dramatic decrease in revenues" after cancelling elective surgeries, NBC reported.
A spokesperson for the hospital told NBC the layoffs were "strictly voluntary," and that not everyone who volunteered to accept a layoff would be accepted.
The letter says it's directed to all hospital employees. It doesn't say which sorts of workers will be considered. Update, March 31: A hospital spokesperson has since told New Jersey 101.5 no doctors or nurses will be granted volunteer lay-offs.
"The intended volunteers for reduction are in non-clinical support areas that have nothing to do with patient care," the spokesperson said in an email to New Jersey 101.5. "We did not want to exclude someone who may have extenuating circumstances that would prevent them from providing care to patients with COVID-19."
News of the volunteer layoffs comes on the same day that Gov. Phil Murphy and other state officials said that because of the impact of social distancing — prompted by and enforced through shutting down most retail business and requiring any workers who can to work from home — as well as ramped-up hospital capacity, the state should have enough beds to see a coming surge of COVID-19 patients through.
But he and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said New Jersey will struggle much more to have enough medical personnel to go around. New Jersey is recruiting volunteers. Rutgers is sending its medical students out into the field early to help. And the state has eased licencing rules to let medical professionals from other states operate here.
“As of right now we have had 3,611 individuals respond to this call (for volunteers)," Murphy said at a press conference Monday. He's urging anyone else with medical experience to sign up as well.
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