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Utah’s hospitals faced revenue loss due to pandemic but avoided layoffs, officials say

Intermountain Healthcare saw $435 million reduction in revenue since March, officials say

LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City is pictured on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.
LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City is pictured on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Although they’re coping with lost revenue during the pandemic like other health care businesses across the country, Utah’s largest hospital systems say they’ve avoided resorting to layoffs and large pay cuts.

According to the American Hospital Association, the nation’s hospitals and health systems have lost an average of $50.7 billion each month since March.

Intermountain Healthcare, the Beehive State’s largest employer, saw a $435 million reduction in revenue between March and May due to a 47% reduction in surgeries; 26% decline in emergency room visits; 20% fewer inpatient admissions; and 31% fewer clinic visits, according to hospital officials.

And even after non-critical surgeries were able to resume in May and most workers returned to their regular duties, hospitals are continuing to see fewer patients.

“While our employees have worked to keep the community healthy, we’ve worked to keep them healthy from an economic standpoint,” Rob Allen, Intermountain’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

“Everything we’ve done during the pandemic has been aimed at preserving jobs and pay. This commitment included our annual pay increase for employees, which took place in April as scheduled,” he said.

To address decreased revenue, Intermountain officials say they are “pausing” 401(k) plan contribution matches for employees “for at least the second half of this year.” Take-home pay, however, is not changing.

“Our employees have been remarkable in adapting to these unusual times,” Allen said.

“Time after time they’ve responded with compassion, talent, and commitment and have stepped up to serve our communities. They’re heroes. We’re doing everything we can to address this situation in a way that reflects our commitment to them for the great care they provide to patients.”

When employees voluntarily leave the company, Intermountain is only filling their positions if they are considered critical to care, according to officials. The system is also examining planned “major expenditures” including some construction projects and considering whether to delay them.

Officials say the company has been able to continue paying “virtually all” employees by redeploying those whose jobs were affected by the pandemic. Those who weren’t able to fulfill different tasks were given up to four weeks of pandemic pay and allowed time-off balances into the negative by up to 80 hours.

Meanwhile, MountainStar Healthcare — a system with eight hospitals and multiple clinics across Utah — also avoided layoffs and furloughs during the pandemic, though it has faced a decline in demand for services.

“Like many health care organizations across the country, the circumstances around COVID-19 have created situations where there is often not enough patients to support the workforce in our hospitals getting their full, expected hours. MountainStar Healthcare has identified redeployment opportunities to keep team members working across our eight Utah hospitals to areas of the hospital where volume levels are higher,” Mike Graul, MountainStar spokesman, said in a statement.

He did not disclose how much the system has lost in revenue.

Workers unable to fulfill different duties or find work to fill 40 hours a week are paid 100% for the hours they do work and 70% for the remaining hours that they can’t fill, Graul said. To receive the remaining 30% of their regular pay for unworked hours, workers have been able to use paid time off.

Those who work with patients and who have been exposed to COVID-19 receive their total base pay whether they were exposed to COVID-19 at work or outside of work, according to Graul.

“To help fund this program, corporate, division and individual hospital executives have taken various levels of pay decreases over the last several months. The CEO of HCA Healthcare, Sam Hazen, even donated 100% of his salary for two months to the HCA Hope Fund, a charity that provides assistance to colleagues with proven financial needs. These pay decreases are expected to end at the end of June,” Graul said.

Likewise, University of Utah Health officials say they do not anticipate needing to implement layoffs or pay cuts.

“While we lost a significant amount of revenue during the past few months, we are on a slow and cautious path to recovery. We have temporarily frozen the filling of non-essential positions; cut operational expenses on things like travel, equipment, etc.; and paused, delayed, and even canceled some capital investments,” Kathy Wilets, U. Health spokeswoman, said in a statement.