UPDATE, 3:00 pm: Adds information about how Swedish, a Seattle-area hospital network, is cutting costs.
The economic crisis that's resulted from measures to control the coronavirus is now hitting hospitals.
UW Medicine, which operates Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, Valley Medical Center as well as clinics and the UW School of Medicine, said in a press release that COVID-19 has created an “unprecedented financial challenge” for health systems and that it's anticipating losses of more than $500 million by the end of the summer.
The hospital network said it will take steps to cut costs, including furloughing an undisclosed number of workers and reducing compensation for senior leaders. UW Medicine has lost revenue because of the cancellation of elective and non-emergency procedures and has incurred high costs related to treating patients with sick with the coronavirus.
UW Medicine is not alone in taking these steps. Last week, MultiCare Health System, which operates eight hospitals, including MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, said it will have 6,000 "mainly non-clinical" employees take furloughs to help stem $160 million in losses that have resulted from the pandemic. The employees will be furloughed for the equivalent of one shift per pay period through the rest of the year.
Swedish, which has five hospital campuses and 100 clinics in the Puget Sound region, said it's taking cost-cutting measures, including reducing hours and overtime scheduling for some workers as of the beginning of May. Swedish and MultiCare both said they've also reduced executive compensation.
The Washington State Nurses Association represents 1,800 registered nurses at UW Medical Center — Montlake and 600 registered nurses at UW Medical Center — Northwest.
“We are very concerned and sad to hear about potential furloughs at UW Medical Center,” said Anne Tan Piazza, senior director of strategic initiatives for Washington State Nurses Association. “We have not gotten official notification but have made it clear that we want to have discussions and demand to bargain with administration on the impact of the furloughs.”
UW Medicine said it will hold town hall meetings with faculty and staff in coming days and will develop plans in accordance with its collective bargaining agreements.
A spokesperson for UW Medicine said no one from the hospital network was available for an interview. But in a University of Washington virtual town hall earlier this month, Provost Mark Richards said UW Medicine is one reason why the university's overall budget is looking grim.
“I wish I had more certainty to deliver, but I think the only certainty is that we’re going to be in for very, very difficult times, and that we have to plan and behave accordingly,” Richards said.