By Jessica Mathews/

Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, which comprise the Michigan region of Trinity Health, announced that the health systems will be implementing temporary furloughs for a limited number of mostly non-clinical colleagues over the next few weeks.

The actions were said to be necessary response to the changes and challenges impacting health care providers across the country, as COVID-19 rapidly spreads and leading health care experts predict a surge of cases over the coming weeks and months. A press release states the action will enable the health systems to focus resources on the functions directly related to essential COVID-19 patient care needs, while protecting people and helping to prevent the spread of the virus. For the combined eight hospitals across Michigan, the temporary furloughs represent roughly 10% of its workforce - 2,500 colleagues. Impacted colleagues will continue to retain benefits including health, dental and basic life insurance. The furloughs are said to be temporary, with the goal to bring back as many affected colleagues as possible at the appropriate time, as the situation evolves. Additionally, executive leaders such as the vice president level and above are taking compensation reductions up to 25% and the elimination of all performance-based incentives during this time.

Saint Joseph Mercy Health System Spokeswoman Laura Blodgett told WHMI “At this time how this will impact Howell and Brighton is not known as we are still evaluating the situation to level set the impact the virus is having on our hospital and the Brighton Health Center so that we can serve both the Howell and Brighton community effectively in dealing with patients impacted by the virus”.

The release states the proportion of furloughed staff is far less than the 50%-60% loss of revenues the health system has withstood since the crisis began - driven by the loss of elective and routine medical care, and the pausing of many administrative functions. It adds Mercy Health and St Joe's continue to prepare and respond to COVID-19, both in the immediate term and over the weeks and months to come. That includes expanding capacity through increased clinical staffing, beds and ventilators in the hospitals, expanding tele-health visits with physicians, and expanding lab testing and turnaround time for results.

Trinity Health Michigan President and CEO Rob Casalou said their priority is the care and safety of their colleagues and the people they serve – adding their colleagues have never worked harder than they are working today. Casalou added these are difficult steps that are intended to make sure they’re able to provide the best possible care for patients and communities through this unprecedented time.

More information can be found through the provided web link and attached press release.