Hundreds laid off from Palomar Health due to financial impact of COVID-19

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ESCONDIDO, Calif. – More than 300 employees from Palomar Health are out of a job Wednesday due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The President and CEO of Palomar Health said elective surgeries around the country have been cut off since mid-March. Those surgeries bring in a big portion of the income that most hospitals generate. At Palomar Health, they lost nearly $7 million to missed surgeries in March. They anticipate April being much worse.

“We knew we had to take drastic measures,” said Palomar Health President and CEO Diane Hansen during a video conference call Tuesday.

To balance the losses, Palomar Health laid off 317 employees throughout the entire organization. Positions affected include bedside clinicians, travelers and agency personnel, open jobs, and employees in management.

“It’s shocking,” said Lori Isham, a nurse with 33 years experience. “It’s heartbreaking. You have nurses that have worked there for years.”

Isham said she was technically laid off about 3 weeks ago due to finances, but was told to be ready to come back in anticipation of surging patient totals from coronavirus.

“They came back at the end of 21 days and laid everyone off,” said Isham. “Nurses with benefits had two days to get their health insurance and during a pandemic that’s something you want, you don’t want your family left without health insurance.”

Isham said the layoff was especially frustrating because only a few weeks ago, politicians around the state and country called on retired nurses and those in nursing schools to help out in hospitals. Additionally, Palomar Medical Center just added 200 beds on the top two floors to prepare for coronavirus patients.

The situation is likely a predicament that many hospitals around the country are facing. Many can’t even anticipate bringing employees back because they are preparing for a potential second surge of the coronavirus, and need to be prepared.

When asked if the remaining staff might see a reduction in pay, Hansen said, “We have continued to ask everyone to do more with less. We’ve asked them to take on more responsibility. We’ve asked them to work longer hours. I don’t feel the right thing to do at this point in time would be to ask anybody to take a reduction in pay when they are working harder than ever before.”

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