US for-profit health care sector cuts thousands of jobs as pandemic rages | US news

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Maureen Zeman was a registered nurse for 29 years at a hospital in San Jose, California, before being laid off with dozens of other nurses – in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many states across the United States have stopped elective medical procedures as part of emergency stops to curb the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, hospitals and medical clinics are implementing layoffs, leaves, and cuts to wages and hours of work in response to declining incomes.

The for-profit company that owns the hospital where Zeman worked decided to close the maternity delivery unit in late March. This left Zeman and many others unemployed and left patients with far fewer options.

“They say it’s not related to Covid-19, but it’s a huge disservice to women on the east side of San Jose. Doing this during a pandemic is terrible, ”said Zeman. “They said it was not financially stable to keep the unit open, and so they close. Our great concern is that we are a trauma center and there are no hospitals in this area that can take care of the services of women and children. “

Healthcare in the U.S. is a trillion-dollar industry, where hospitals and clinics are run for the most part like businesses, and where patients are at the heart of their revenue cycle. Americans should be able to afford treatment, usually through costly job-related insurance, although about 28 million people were uninsured in 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“If you manage healthcare as a business, if someone is not profitable for you, you [people] of. That’s what we’re seeing, “said Dr. David Himmelstein, distinguished professor of public health at Hunter College at City University of New York and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Hospitals – exactly at a time of greatest need – say they don’t need these people.

“We have a health care system where you usually excel by emphasizing what is least needed, and then when we have an emergency and the need is greatest, you have financial problems because you are ready to do what is profitable. “

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43,000 health care jobs were lost in March 2020, and job losses in health care increased as closures continued during the pandemic. The HealthLandscape and the American Academy of Family Physicians have released a report that by June 2020, 60,000 family medical practices would close or decline, affecting 800,000 workers.

Corey Mertz, a registered nurse for almost 21 years at a for-profit hospital in McMinnville, Oregon, saw her work schedule go from full time – 32 to 40 hours per week – to less than 12 hours per week.

He said, “In the past two to three weeks, we have canceled all of our elective surgeries, most of our ambulatory processes, and this has had a huge impact on our hospital. “

Mertz applied for unemployment benefits last week, but did not receive benefits or was unable to contact the national unemployment agency. Mertz Hospital started by training nurses to help departments cope with anticipated flares from coronavirus patients, but training was interrupted because the hospital had not seen a significant influx of sufficiently severe cases to be admitted.





Discarded examination gloves are seen next to an ambulance by NYU Langone Hospital.

Discarded examination gloves are seen next to an ambulance by a New York hospital. Photography: John Lamparski / Sopa Images / Rex / Shutterstock

“We all have a lot of uncertainty and anxiety over the duration of this operation,” added Mertz.

The cuts and layoffs faced by healthcare workers have started as many parts of the United States have seen an increase in coronavirus patients, while hospitals are experiencing shortages of supplies and equipment protection for workers.

Elizabeth, a medical assistant at a hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts, who asked not to use her last name for fear of losing her job, was put on leave in late March 2020, but was still awaiting information from human resources last week on how to maintain benefits and what to expect throughout the leave process.

“We have no idea [about] the headaches we engage in. It never happened. I have been working in the medical field for 21 years, ”she said. “They want us to use our paid vacation time to cover our health insurance benefits, but if you are receiving unemployment they will think you are taking a paycheck so this will interfere with unemployment and unemployment benefits are already minimal . . It’s not even half of our check. “

The Fairmont Regional Medical Center, the only hospital in Marion County, West Virginia, closed in late March. A few days after the closure, the first death from a coronavirus in West Virginia occurred there.

“I think having no hospital in this community means the deaths of many people,” said Patty Snyder, president of Local 550 of the Union of Retailers, Wholesalers and Department Stores, which represented 120 employees. to the hospital. Alecto Healthcare Services, which operated Fairmont, did not respond to a request for comment.

Snyder, one of hundreds of employees laid off due to the closure, worked as a cashier at the hospital for almost 30 years. “It will have a catastrophic effect on this community. In the middle of this pandemic, we don’t have time to wait 20 to 30 minutes for an ambulance, and [then] drive 20 to 30 minutes back and forth to the hospital. “

Alex Hlumyk, a certified medical assistant in Hubbard, Ohio, began work in a medical office in a health care system owned by a private equity firm eight months ago, but was recently laid off after learning that he did not there was not enough money to keep him on the payroll.

Before being laid off, Hlumyk was screening patients for coronaviruses and was frustrated that he had received no advice on how to continue helping on the front lines of the pandemic.

“I have the skills to help people during this pandemic and right now I can’t,” said Hlumyk. He applied for unemployment on the day he was laid off, but is still awaiting benefits, while worried that he will be able to pay rent and payments on his car.

“These leaves demonstrate that our health care system should no longer be for profit more than ever. We are among the most vital workers in the country right now, and there should be no reason for some people on Wall Street to determine the value of our jobs when thousands and thousands of lives are at risk. “

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