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EMH to furlough 20% of workforce

COVID-19 has taken a toll on the health of people across our nation, and it’s now starting to do the same to the financial health of hospitals. Ephraim McDowell Health is the latest to be affected.

EMH President and CEO Dan McKay announced Friday afternoon that the company will furlough 20% of its more than 1,700 associates throughout the system. The move was effective the same day, and McKay said in a press release that the furloughs are intended to be temporary.

“We realize that EMH has a tremendous impact on our associates and our community. It’s not a decision we take lightly, but we have to take immediate steps to ensure that we can sustain our operations after the COVID-19 crisis ends,” McKay said in the release. “We, like all institutions, must conserve our financial resources in order to care for our communities until this crisis abates.”

McKay added that furloughed employees will keep their current positions and will return as needed to respond to any surge of COVID-19 patients, and associates will be eligible to file for unemployment insurance benefits and will retain their current elected EMH benefits.

“I appreciate the tremendous sacrifices our associates have and are making so we can continue our mission and care for our patients in this time of uncertainty. We will get through this together,” he continued.

Earlier in the week during a call with members of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, McKay said the hospital has been working hard and is prepared for the virus, but added that restrictions related to it, as well as safety measures for hospitals, are having a financial effect that is being felt by hospitals everywhere.

“It’s hard to imagine three weeks ago we were full. All three hospitals were full, and we had eight patients in the ER waiting for beds,” McKay said. “Today, our business is off at least a third. Quite honestly, it has impacted our cash flow.”

In a telephone interview Friday morning, McKay elaborated on the issues faced by EMH. He said they are following safety measures put in place by Gov. Andy Beshear and the Centers for Disease Control, but those same measures are causing greater stress on the business operation of the hospitals.

“For the last three weeks we’ve been managing our staffing. We’ve had to eliminate all elective surgery, we’ve had to eliminate all outpatient testing per the governor and following the CDC guidelines, and we agree. We think that’s the safest thing to do,” McKay said. “But it’s impacted us because we don’t have any patients or any testing coming through, therefore we don’t have any revenue coming through, or very little revenue coming through. It’s impacted us like it’s impacted all of the hospitals across Kentucky.”

He added that EMH is evaluating everything at this point, and said, “We’re hemorrhaging cash right now simply because we have more expenses versus revenue. We’ve just got to manage our expenses more aggressively going forward.”