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Kaleida Health offering temporary voluntary furloughs

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Wed, Apr 22nd 2020 11:50 am

By Kaleida Health

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related financial challenges that it is facing, Kaleida Health is offering a temporary voluntary furlough program for its staff.

The primary voluntary furlough program is part of a joint agreement with 1199SEIU and CWA1168, which represent over 8,000 Kaleida Health employees.

It is one of several measures that has been implemented to help protect the long-term health of the organization amid significant financial losses as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

“Like other health care organizations across Western New York, New York state and the entire country, the pandemic has significantly impacted our bottom line,” said Jody Lomeo, president and CEO of Kaleida Health. “As a result, we have made a number of changes to help reduce expenses and cut costs. The voluntary furlough program is a temporary but significant move to help us navigate the financial challenges that we are facing. It’s important that we recognize labor for their partnership and willingness to step up and help at this critical juncture.”

A furlough is a temporary unpaid leave. Furloughed individuals are not being terminated from their employment and will remain Kaleida Health employees.

It is targeted for the areas across the organization that have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis (elimination of elective surgeries, clinic reductions, etc.). It does not include COVID-19 areas or Kaleida Health’s long-term care services.

“While we all continue to work through the challenges of COVID-19, we have put together an agreement with Kaleida Health to allow our members to go on a voluntary furlough for a short period of time,” said Jim Scordato, vice president, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “This agreement will not interfere with patient care or services that are being provided. Moving forward, we will continue to work together to help get hospital operations back to what they were prior to this pandemic. Our members have been phenomenal in responding to this public health crisis; this is another example of their dedication and commitment.”

The furlough period is for 30 days beginning Sunday, April 26.

“Our members have tirelessly responded to the extraordinary demands of the pandemic in order to ensure the best possible treatment for every patient who has entered a Kaleida Health facility since this crisis began unfolding,” said Cori Gambini, president of CWA Local 1168. “However, as health care workers, we understand how the overall health of the people under our care is inseparably tied to the overall health of the organization. This voluntary unpaid leave that we’ve negotiated is the temporary and necessary step in a strategic process that considers the employer, the employees, and the community who depends on our members every day.”

The voluntary furlough program will not be impacted by the state’s recent announcement regarding its regional approach to reopening the Upstate economy. In particular, hospital operations in Erie County, which have been excluded from resuming elective surgery at this time.

Over the past 60 days, Kaleida Health has suspended elective procedures, closed ambulatory surgery centers, and reduced ambulatory capacity, plus spent more than $15 million so far on personal protective equipment (PPE), equipment, supplies, staffing up and preparing for a surge.

This lost revenue and increased spending could equate to upwards of a loss of $30 million a month.

To reduce costs without impacting frontline staff and clinical teams, the organization has also taken steps to eliminate nonessential spending, delay non-COVID-related capital projects, downsize and float staff, and delay contracted/temporary staff. As another step in cost reduction measures, last week Kaleida Health announced salary reductions for its 340-plus managers.

Moving forward, Kaleida Health and the two unions will reevaluate the furlough program as the coronavirus curve flattens and the state removes the “PAUSE” order in the coming weeks.

Upper Allegheny Health System, the VNA of Western New York (and its related union CWA1122), are also rolling out voluntary furlough programs this week. Kaleida Health’s non-union employees are eligible for the furlough program, as well.

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