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Hospitals throughout the country have furloughed healthcare workers

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FARMINGTON — San Juan Regional Medical Center is furloughing a number of elective care and non-clinical employees and reducing the hours of other employees starting on April 13.

President and CEO of San Juan Regional Medical Center Jeff Bourgeois said that employees across the hospital in elective care, including radiology technicians, occupational, speech and physical therapists, and employees in non-clinical roles like billing, collection and financial services are included in the staff who will be furloughed. 

"We do plan to call those folks back when the volume and work comes back," Bourgeois said."

As of now, Bourgeois said there was no timeline for when the furloughed employees will be brought back to work, but Bourgeois said that in the event of a surge of coronavirus patients needing urgent or emergency care, some furloughed staff could be called back to work in the emergency or urgent care departments at the medical center. 

"We are not overwhelmed here. We have the capacity to treat who is here," Bourgeois said, which he added includes the capacity to handle the projected numbers of coronavirus patients in the near future.  

Bourgeois said that furloughed staff will also be able to keep their employer-provided health care.       

Senior leadership at the medical center have also agreed to a pay cut, including Bourgeois. 

On March 24, Governor Lujan Grisham and Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, Kathyleen Kunkel, ordered all hospitals and other health facilities, including dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices in the state to stop providing non-essential health care services, as long as the procedure could be delayed for at least three month without putting the patient’s health at risk.

The order does not include delaying prenatal and postnatal care.

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In a press release, state officials describes the order as a necessity to conserve personal protective equipment — like masks and gloves and other medical supplies that are in critically short supply across the country — for emergency and urgent care hospital staff working with patients with the coronavirus.  

Bourgeois acknowledged what the state of New Mexico and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham have done to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, including temporarily banning elective care, encouraging social distancing and a recent announcement from the state's Human Services Department to immediately distribute millions of dollars to hospitals around the state through the Disproportionate Share and Uncompensated Care funds.    

Hospitals throughout the country have furloughed healthcare workers in the last couple of weeks as hospitals shift focus from revenue-earning elective care services to critical care services for coronavirus patients.

Healthlandscape.org, an interactive health care based mapping tool run by the American Academy of Family Physicians, projects that by June a little more than 58,000 family physicians could loose their practices, or have to significantly reduce their hours, and 784,000 health care workers including physicians, could lose their jobs or have their hours reduced significantly because of coronavirus caused health care sector closures.   

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Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at sribakoff@daily-times.com.

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