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El Paso hospitals furlough hundreds of employees, cut pay in midst of COVID-19 outbreak

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The parent companies of El Paso’s private hospitals, faced with increasing financial concerns due to the COVID-19 outbreak, have started furloughing employees and cutting back hours and pay.

The Hospitals of Providence, El Paso’s largest private hospital organization, furloughed at least 200 employees — including 40 percent of physician staffing — last week, a source told El Paso Matters. The Hospitals of Providence is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Health.

The El Paso Times reported that HCA Healthcare, parent company of Las Palmas and Del Sol medical centers and a variety of other health-care facilities in El Paso, implemented reduced hours and a 30 percent pay cut in base pay for employees for up to seven weeks if they could not be deployed to other hospital operations.

The Hospitals of Providence operates seven hospitals across El Paso as well as a number of clinics and other health-care facilities. Hospitals across the country have reported huge financial losses as non-essential surgeries and treatments are postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We remain on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, working together with our greater El Paso community to see this through,” according to a joint statement released on Wednesday from The Hospitals Of Providence communications manager Monique Poessiger and parent company Tenet Health. “With shelter-in-place orders and government restrictions on elective procedures, some hospital services – which are not related to the COVID-19 crisis or other critical patient care needs – have been closed or ramped down.”

The statement didn’t provide a total number of furloughs in El Paso. But a Tenet employee in El Paso, who asked not to be identified because he or she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said the company announced 200 furloughs to employees on Thursday.

The statement outlined several cost-saving measures taken by The Hospitals of Providence, including “implementing furloughs for certain jobs where activity has been limited due to the current environment. We are providing all furloughed employees with medical benefits support consistent with their elections and at no cost to them, covering the employee and employer contributions of premiums for medical/ employee/spouse critical illness and supplemental life during this time.”

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Tenet was furloughing about 10 percent of its total  workforce. The company has said it employs about 113,000 people nationwide, which would put the total number of furloughs at more than 10,000 across the country.

The Hospitals of Providence has 4,000 employees in El Paso.

Tenet Health announced in early April that it was furloughing 500 full-time corporate, non-patient care employees as part of sweeping cost-cutting measures.

The company had released first-quarter and full year 2020 projections ahead of this year saying that it would earn between $130 million and $245 million over the course of 2020 on revenues of at least $19.1 billion. With the coronavirus outbreak affecting its business, Tenet Health withdrew its financial outlook.

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Joe Rutland

Joe Rutland is a freelance journalist who lives in El Paso. He's a former assistant city editor with The El Paso Times and has worked for newspapers in Texas and Arizona as a reporter, columnist, and copy editor.

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