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Essentia lays off 500 employees across 4 states

Essentia Health's Cardiac and Intermediate Care unit at its Fargo campus at 3000 32nd Ave. S. Forum file photo
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FARGO — Essentia Health announced Monday, March 30, that they have laid off 500 nonmedical staff as they prepare for an "expected surge of COVID-19 patients."

David Herman, chief executive officer at Duluth-based Essentia, said the employees who aren't involved in direct patient care have been placed on "special administrative leave" at its hospitals and clinics in Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho and Wisconsin.

The health care system employs another 14,000 in the four states.

Herman said they have postponed elective surgeries, closed some clinics and delayed routine appointments.

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"Even with our new ability to convert clinic appointments to virtual video visits, patient volumes have declined," he said.

The system is anticipating a 20% to 40% decrease in revenue due to pandemic-related declines in patient volumes, which Herman said was similar to what other health care organizations in the country are projecting.

Herman said the move would also save "valuable personal protective equipment."

Laid-off employees will continue to receive health insurance "for the near term," and as for pay they can take vacation or paid time off as well as unpaid leave. Herman said the workers can also apply for unemployment, which was expanded and extended by federal legislation passed last week.

Employee assistance programs like financial counseling as well as other counseling services are also being offered.

"The decision to refocus our operations for the coming COVID-19 surge is difficult because we deeply appreciate the contributions of all our Essentia colleagues," Herman said. "We recognize and regret the hardship this uncertainty will have on our coworkers and their families."

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