In The Midst Of A Pandemic, Big Hospitals Accepted Billions In Bailouts While Laying Off Workers And Neglecting Safety

By Consumers For Quality Care, on June 17, 2020

In The Midst Of A Pandemic, Big Hospitals Accepted Billions In Bailouts While Laying Off Workers And Neglecting Safety

A report from the New York Times reveals that many major hospitals that have received COVID-19 bailout funds from the federal government have neglected safety concerns and laid off workers while continuing to pay top executives millions.

The Times analyzed tax and securities filings from 60 of the U.S.’s largest hospital chains, which received more than $15 billion in emergency funds through the CARES Act.

The investigation found that even though most hospitals were sitting on huge cash reserves and had received billions in aid, they furloughed and laid off important workers during the pandemic to save money.

One of the goals of the bailout was to reduce layoffs while hospitals weathered the worst of the pandemic. But according to the Times investigation, many large hospitals still laid off and furloughed thousands.

Seven chains that together received more than $1.5 billion in bailout funds — Trinity Health, Beaumont Health and the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan; SSM Health and Mercy in St. Louis; Fairview Health in Minneapolis; and Prisma Health in South Carolina — have furloughed or laid off more than 30,000 workers, according to company officials and local news reports.

Some hospitals laid off workers while continuing to pay their top executives virtually the same multi-million-dollar salaries. For example, Tenet Healthcare’s chief executive, Ron Rittenmeyer, said he would donate half of his salary to 11,000 furloughed Tenet workers. What Mr. Rittenmeyer did not mention is that this number only amounted to 1.5 percent of his actual annual pay, which is made up of mostly stock options and bonuses.

Hospital workers that have not been laid off have complained about what they view as “penny-pinching practices” regarding safety.

Since the pandemic began, medical workers at 19 HCA hospitals have filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the lack of respirator masks and being forced to reuse medical gowns, according to copies of the complaints reviewed by The Times.

The issue reveals that few strings were attached to hospitals’ use of funds provided under the CARES Act.

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