SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Avera Health is furloughing hundreds of its employees and cutting hours for about 1,500 other workers, the Sioux Falls-based health system said Friday, April 17, even as its bracing for a coming surge of COVID-19 related patients.
Avera will furlough 650 workers and reduce the hours of 1,500 more across its system as the growing pandemic has hit the health system hard, its leaders said in a news release. Avera has 19,000 employees across a five-state region.
Visits to Avera facilities, including clinic visits and outpatient surgeries, are down by 50% or more. The health system halted many lucrative elective surgeries March 19.
Avera said its top leaders, including physicians, are taking pay cuts, although it didn't add additional details about those cuts.
Avera has 19,000 employees across a five-state region, including South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota. It has six regional centers in South Dakota, in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre, Sioux Falls and Yankton, and another regional center Marshall, Minn.
“This is not a decision we wanted to make or one we take lightly," said Bob Sutton, President and CEO of Avera Health. "We had to take immediate action to ensure we can sustain our clinical operations during the surge and after the surge ends. We will continually be evaluating our finances and workforce needs and hope to call employees back as soon as our volumes support it."
States in the Avera footprint are expecting the coming surge of coronavirus patients in May and June. So the health system is considering how to reassign both clinical and non-clinical employees who are being furloughed.
At this time Avera is focusing all its attention on preparing for and getting through the surge. Avera teams are carefully considering how clinical and non-clinical employees who are furloughed can be reassigned.
The health system has previously announced it was aiding employees with stability payments and providing assistance with health insurance premiums, and those are still being provided, it said.