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Samaritan Health lays off 51, extends furloughs

By Eric Reinhardt (


Moves are a response to pandemic-related budget shortfall         

Samaritan Health in Watertown on Sept. 10 announced the layoff of 51 employees, extended furloughs for 21 employees, and said it wouldn’t fill 44 open positions as it deals with a budget shortfall from the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial fallout. (PHOTO CREDIT: SAMARITAN HEALTH WEBSITE)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Samaritan Health in Watertown announced the layoff of 51 employees, effective Sept. 10, citing “continued disruption of patient volumes and revenue due to [the] COVID-19 crisis.” 

In addition, 44 open positions will not be filled for a total of 95 impacted positions, the organization said in a news release. Several Samaritan health services will also be “restructured to increase operational efficiencies and respond to lower patient volumes.”

At the same time, 21 employees originally placed on furlough in April will have their furlough extended. Samaritan leadership plans to call those furloughed employees back to work when patient volume and operations “stabilize.”

The staffing changes will result in a $5 million cost reduction from salaries for the health-care system, which faces an anticipated $10 million revenue shortfall for the year. While cost savings are part of the plan, Samaritan will also pursue pending, revenue-generating opportunities to help the overall budget shortfall.

Samaritan Health says the hospital is still hiring for a number of positions and many of the laid-off employees will get the chance to apply for these 200 open positions, the organization noted. 

Samaritan’s human-resources department will be working with those employees to help fill those roles. The department will coordinate with the New York State Department of Labor to provide outplacement assistance if a different position within the health-care system isn’t available.

Staff members impacted who do not find another position within the organization will be offered a severance package based on years of service. The positions affected span several departments, from nursing to senior leadership.

Budget shortfall 

The budget shortfall is a “direct result” of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in patient volumes dropping by as much as 40 percent at certain points throughout the year and higher costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing, “among other unanticipated expenses.” The pandemic has caused patients to fear coming to the hospital for services and “many have delayed care as a result,” Samaritan Health contends.

The organization has also been preparing for a possible second wave of COVID-19 cases as it enters autumn.

In addition, federal CARES Act relief provided to Samaritan was “much less than expected,” as the organization missed out on the initial round of rural funding, and “proportionately far less than others in the region.” Samaritan also noted it did not receive Paycheck Protection Program funds — another pocket of CARES dollars — “due to being designated an urban area and employing more than 500 people.”

“Prior to 2020, Samaritan experienced a decade of uninterrupted growth in revenue and services. However, the drastic negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patient volumes and revenue has necessitated the difficult measures we’re taking to ensure the continued financial viability of our health-care system,” Tom Carman, president and CEO, said in the release. “Health-care systems everywhere are facing the same financial constraints driven primarily by fewer patients. We recognize the important role Samaritan plays as the largest private employer in the community, with more than 2,300 full-time employees, and it’s our intention to place the interests of our patients and our broad employee base first as we continue to weather this challenge.”

Other measures

Samaritan also implemented the several measures to help “stabilize” the financial burden it faces, reach “operational efficiency,” and adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.

The cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program and adult day health care remain temporarily suspended until spacing regulations and other COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Samaritan Health is eliminating its transportation department. The organization will instead work with local, third-party vendors to transport long-term care residents for medical care off-site.

The consolidation of the Sackets, Lacona, and Cape Vincent clinics into other existing larger clinics will remain intact until the end of the year, when that measure will be “reassessed.” LeRay Family Health Center has re-opened and providers are seeing patients in their existing space, though radiology services at this location will no longer be available.

LeRay Urgent Care permanently closed on Sept. 13. All providers and staff will be relocated to other primary-care locations, where Samaritan will offer more same-day appointments and will accept more new patients, including at the LeRay Family Health Center located in the same building.

Lab Service Centers at Orthopaedics and Neurology will remain closed. Patients can get these services at other community-based locations, Samaritan Health said.

Many of the cost-saving measures initiated in April will also continue, the organization said. 

They include the 15-percent pay cut for all senior-management positions and deferment of all merit increases for management staff. 

They also include the suspension of new capital construction projects that are not revenue-generating and limiting capital purchases to emergency projects or supplies