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Ephraim McDowell Health Furloughs Workers

The front door at Ephraim McDowell James B. Haggin Hospital is closed. Patients are asked to enter through the emergency room. (The Harrodsburg Herald/Robert Moore.)

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

Ephraim McDowell Health has furloughed workers from across their health care system, including here in Mercer County.

Last week, McDowell Health announced that approximately 20-percent of more than 1,700 associates throughout the system are being temporarily furloughed.

According to a press release, furloughed associates will keep their current positions and will return as needed to respond due to any surge of COVID-19 patients. Associates are eligible to file for unemployment insurance benefits and will retain their current elected benefits. The furloughs began Friday, April 10.

Ephraim McDowell James B. Haggin Hospital, one of the biggest employers in Mercer County, is part of the McDowell Health system. The Harrodsburg Herald contacted Libby Mayes, executive director of human resources, and asked how many employees here in Mercer County would be impacted.

Mayes said that would be difficult to quantify. Many employees are splitting schedules, alternating working and collecting unemployment.

“Everyone is doing it differently,” Mayes said. “That’s why it’s kind of hard to put a number on.”

In the press release, McDowell Health attributed the need to furlough employees to steps taken to prepare for the predicted surge in COVID-19 patients, including postponing all elective surgeries and screenings as well as non-emergency procedures and tests.

The healthcare provider “has fully complied with the mandates from Governor Andy Beshear and the CDC recommendations aimed at reducing the spread of the virus,” according to the press release.

As a result, McDowell Health has seen a significant decline over the last three weeks in patient visits, and, according to the press release, those numbers are not projected to improve in the near future.

“It’s not a decision we take lightly, but we have to take immediate steps to ensure that we can sustain our operations after the COVID-19 crisis ends,” wrote Dan McKay, president and chief executive officer at McDowell Health.

“We, like all institutions, must conserve our financial resources in order to care for our communities until this crisis abates,” McKay said.

According to McDowell Health, the logistics and clinical support is in place to screen, identify, and treat patients with confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.

“We will recall our associates as quickly as possible and continually evaluate the situation,” McKay wrote.

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