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New Mexico hospitals place employees on temporary leave

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Several New Mexico hospitals, including Lovelace Health System, are furloughing employees, reducing hours and slashing pay.

Lovelace Health System, which employs 4,239 people in New Mexico, confirmed Tuesday it is making “difficult workforce decisions” that will affect 15% of its staff, or about 630 people.

“To minimize position eliminations, we have made a variety of adjustments including reduction of hours, furlough (unpaid time off), and pay reduction for exempt employees,” Lovelace spokeswoman Whitney Marquez wrote in an email.

Marquez wrote the changes are expected to last 90 days, but employees “may be called back sooner based on need.”

In Santa Fe, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center will be placing 300 of its 2,200 employees – about 14% of its associates – on temporary leave.

Both hospital systems cited the governor’s stay-at-home order and her ban of elective surgeries for a sharp decline in patient visits.

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center CEO Lillian Montoya told employees in a memo Tuesday the employees would be placed on “Temporary Low Volume Leave” for at least the next 90 days.

She said the medical center had experienced a 35% decline in patient visits during the month of March and that she expects net revenues to decline approximately $10 million per month over the next three months.

“In response to this significant drop in revenue, we have reviewed expenses to make both permanent and temporary changes that we feel will ensure our ability to meet the current needs of our community,” she wrote in the memo.

Montoya called the decision to place people on leave difficult and said the positions affected were not business critical and were not direct patient care positions.

“Know this: Our plan is to do all we can to get you back into service as quick as possible,” she told employees.

Hospital spokesman Arturo Delgado attributed the decline in business to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’ve seen a decline in elective surgeries and in patient visits because more people are staying at home,” he said, adding that some employees could be called back to work within 90 days, if necessary.

Marquez gave similar reasoning for Lovelace’s reductions.

“This reduction in staff does not impact patient safety,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, two Las Cruces hospitals – Memorial Medical Center and Mountain View Regional Medical Center – are also cutting back on staff.

On Monday, Memorial Medical Center announced it would place 125 employees across all departments on 60 days of temporary leave.

In addition, the hospital’s officers will take a 10% pay cut over the next two months.

In a statement, the hospital said the changes were being made “due to significant decreases in volume and the utilization of services.”

“Declines in utilization are a result of people staying home and practicing smart social distancing, and also because of our decision to reschedule elective and non-urgent procedures, when clinically feasible, in an effort to preserve critical resources needed to care for patients during this global pandemic,” the statement said.

At MountainView Regional Medical Center, 67 of its approximately 1,500 employees will be furloughed.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services and UNM Hospital said Tuesday they are not furloughing or laying off employees.