Memorial Medical entrance

The main entrance to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center is quiet.

About 40 people at Long Beach MemorialCare received pink slips Thursday, Aug. 13, as hospital administration struggle to manage expenses and still provide health care in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

MemorialCare Long Beach CEO John Bishop said the layoffs would not impact services, but declined to provide details. He didn't deny the number of 40-43 people, provided by another source.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our staffing needs in certain areas as it has with many health systems and other employers in our community," Bishop wrote in an email. "As a result, we made the difficult decision to eliminate a small number of positions yesterday, mostly administrative and management positions."

MemorialCare is far from alone struggling with finances while attempting to meet requirements to treat COVID-19. In June this year, Carolyn Caldwell, president at Dignity Health's St. Mary Medical Center, said that facility had stopped most of the procedures that generated revenue to prepare for a COVID-19 surge.

At that time, Bishop said Long Beach Memorial had lost 50% of its revenue while only cutting expenses 20%. While both medical centers can now do scheduled and elective procedures, revenue remains down.

"Many hospitals across the country are experiencing significant financial strain during this crisis with large declines in volumes and revenue," an unattributed statement from St. Mary said. "St. Mary is no different and has incurred significant expenses to sustain staffing, build surge capacity, and secure equipment. The hospital is participating in available federal assistance programs, including FEMA grants under our emergency response. As much as possible, we are committed to ensuring that our caregivers work their traditional or complete schedules."

The statement went on to say that medical staff are being reassigned from one department to another, based on need. In some cases, employees receive additional training to meet qualifications for assignments.

Bishop said that every employee laid off Thursday received severance pay and support through he company's employee assistance program. There are no plans for other staff reductions, he added.

"The staffing changes, impacting less than one percent of our workforce, will have no impact to services," Bishop said. "We have no further changes in staffing planned at this time, although as is standard in hospital operations, we evaluate and adjust staffing levels based on patient volume."

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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