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MVHS announces jobs cuts, other moves in plan to deal with pandemic financial losses

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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The Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) on Wednesday announced job cuts, furlough extension, and consolidation of services, including the closure of Faxton Urgent Care as it deals with financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. MVHS in late July had told staff members that the announcement was in the planning stages. (Photo credit: Mohawk Valley Health System website)

UTICA, N.Y. — Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) is eliminating a “number” of positions as of Thursday, extending furloughs for two months, service consolidation, and the closure of Faxton Urgent Care as it deals with financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s according to a message the MVHS president and CEO Darlene Stromstad sent to MVHS employees and medical staff about the organization’s “revenue recovery and restructuring plan.”

Stromstad had sent a July 27 message indicating that MVHS was in the planning stages for this announcement.

“Today is a very hard day for our organization and our employees. As I have been sharing with you on a regular basis, MVHS is not immune to the economic toll this novel Coronavirus has taken on hospitals and health systems across the nation. We’re all working diligently to keep our patients and employees safe while maintaining a state of readiness for a potential next wave of COVID-19. At the same time, we also are adapting to lower volumes caused by two things: the general public’s discomfort with accessing health care and the increased complications, and inefficiencies, of functioning in a post-COVID environment. None of us has been through anything like this before. It has changed our daily lives in ways we could not have envisioned. While it certainly has impacted healthcare, we are committed to doing all that we can to navigate in this new COVID era,” she said.

Position eliminations

MVHS plans to eliminate a “number” of positions, effective Thursday. The health-care system did not specify a number.

The positions are primarily clerical, administrative, leadership, business office, medical office support staff, and mixed logistical support.

Maintaining frontline positions that directly care for patients, such as nurses and care attendants, “was our priority,” according to Stromstad.

However, every area of the health system, including those departments represented by one of the five collective bargaining units, have felt the impact of position eliminations, MVHS contends.

“Our goal is to be as supportive to our employees as possible. This means that we are working with representatives of the labor unions and with individual employees to identify vacant positions employees can move into. We continue to have openings in several areas and will retrain our employees if they desire. MVHS is also providing comprehensive outplacement services for displaced employees. Severance and short-term continuation of health insurance has also been made available for eligible employees,” per Stromstad’s statement.

MVHS also eliminated “several” open positions and the organization is also delaying hiring into some positions to make them available to impacted employees.

Furlough extension

MVHS also extended furloughs for two months, effective Thursday through Oct. 13, for those positions in areas where “there is a potential for volume increases” within the next two months.

Consolidations

The organization is also consolidating and changing services and schedules, including the closure of Faxton Urgent Care. Telehealth services for urgent care will be available through Aug. 31. MVHS says it is working on extending hours in a couple of the MVHS primary-care offices, including evening and weekends, where patients can go for services in place of urgent care.

MVHS also established a new neurosciences unit and an intermediate care unit by converting the progressive care unit (PCU) and special care unit (SCU) at the St. Luke’s campus. All of the clinical staff of the PCU and SCU have the skills required for these new units, MVHS said.

The health-care provider is also consolidating pre-admission testing of all services and all campuses and converting it to a “patient-centered” surgical home program. That is, all services are brought to the patient in one location (the Medical Arts Building in New Hartford) so patients will no longer have to go to multiple sites for pre-admission tests.

MVHS also closed and consolidated medical offices in the region, including the consolidation of the New Hartford offices into one office at Crossroads.

In addition, the organization extended limiting discretionary spending and freezing nonessential capital expenditures. It also extended salary cuts and pension elimination through October.

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