As hospitals in some parts of the country are desperately seeking specifically trained healthcare professionals, COVID-19 is leading others to cut staffing, including one nearby facility.
Officials with North Arkansas Regional Medical Center (NARMC) in Harrison say they are furloughing about 35 employees.
In a posting to its website Friday, NARMC officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has put an unprecedented clinical and financial strain on rural hospitals across the country.
They say, “Rural hospitals operate on razor thin margins mostly due to the chronic underfunding from Medicare and Medicaid. Most of the margin for rural hospitals comes from elective services such as surgery, lab and imaging.”
In order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) directed all elective procedures in hospitals be postponed.
There are two reasons for this action, first, to reduce the spread of COVID 19 through close contact and second to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for health professional employees who care for those who are infected. Officials with the Harrison hospital say this action effectively eliminated the revenue stream that pays the bills.
Staffing is one of the most expensive costs the organization incurs. Several NARMC team members have already chosen to cut back on their hours or take vacation days due to cancelled patient services and appointments.
The furloughed staff members will continue to be eligible for health benefits and can utilize their paid leave bank during this period. Employees impacted are from support departments. Hospital officials say this decision to temporarily reduce staff will not affect direct patient care.
NARMC employs more than 850 through its healthcare system that includes 18 clinics serving rural communities in north Arkansas.