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Oklahoma hospital closes, health care workers furloughed because there aren't enough patients

A result of coronavirus policy

Nurse Christine McCarthy rests on an empty hospital bed April 2 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Expanded intensive care units are packed with COVID-19 patients, while other floors and places such as family waiting rooms are deserted, quiet. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

A hospital in Oklahoma closed this week because there aren't enough patients to justify the cost of operations and paying a full staff, The Oklahoman reported.

Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City closed down all operations except emergency, radiology, and ambulatory infusion. The hospital has experienced a 50% drop in revenues since procedures deemed nonessential by the government have been halted.

Oklahoma, like many states, has enacted a policy of temporarily banning nonessential medical procedures in an effort to preserve resources, especially personal protective equipment such as masks. In states without an overwhelming COVID-19 outbreak, some hospitals are seeing very little activity.

A spokeswoman for Integris said direct personal caregivers will be transferred to a larger hospital in the city, while non-direct patient care staff will be furloughed until the hospital reopens.

Furloughed workers won't receive pay, although they will have access to benefits. They can be paid for the time they're unable to work if they use their paid time off, and they will be allowed to use 80 more hours than they've actually accrued. Still, for many workers, that won't go very far.

Workers who have been temporarily laid off will be brought back to work if there is a COVID-19 surge in the state. However, the numbers of new deaths, cases, and hospitalizations are trending downward over the past week.

The health care system lost more than 40,000 jobs in March, a consequence of the abrupt shift of all medical resources to prepare for potential coronavirus outbreaks. Although New York City and some other areas have seen significant outbreaks, most of the country has not been overwhelmed by the virus.

From USA Today:

The workers range from dentists and general surgeons to medical assistants and nurses, from allergists and dermatologists to primary care physicians and pediatricians.

By June, an estimated 60,000 family practices will close or significantly scale back, and 800,000 of their employees will be laid off, furloughed or have their hours reduced as they see a decline in business during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a HealthLandscape and American Academy of Family Physicians report released Thursday.
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