Penn Highlands Clearfield Hospital

DuBOIS — Though the Penn Highlands Healthcare has not seen a surge of confirmed COVID-19 patients within its service area, there has been a dramatic decline in elective services and procedures as well as preventative care visits and outpatient testing, according to Penn Highlands Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman.

On Wednesday it was announced that this decline brought 600 layoffs throughout the local health care system.

“Patients are continuing to cancel doctor’s appointments out of fear or to obey shelter in place orders,” Norman said during Wednesday’s media teleconference. “Many patients are just not comfortable leaving their homes to receive healthcare services.”

Norman said PHH has been closely analyzing its volumes and finances. In the past two to three weeks, he said, volumes at PHH have dramatically declined.

“We’ve seen a 59 percent drop in clinic visits and 83 percent drop in surgeries, a 47 percent drop in radiology tests, a 59 percent drop in lab tests,” said Norman. “This equates to an anticipated drop in net revenue in the month of April of approximately 40 percent for Penn Highlands Healthcare.”

In response to this data, Norman said PHH announced staffing levels across the five-hospital system have been adjusted by approximately 600 employees to ensure the health system’s financial stability and to enable it to continue to care for patients and communities in the long term.

Norman said more than 60 percent of the adjustments are in the form of furloughs, which means those employees can be quickly returned to work as the system’s volumes increase. The reductions were expected to start happening Wednesday and take place over the next several days.

The breakdown of the furloughs and layoffs by PHH facilities are as follows:

  • PH Brookville: 24
  • PH Clearfield: 43
  • PH DuBois (including the physician practices): 338
  • PH Elk: 65
  • PH Huntingdon: 66
  • PH Healthcare Corporate: 49

“We have redeployed a lot of our clinical staff to inpatient areas, in the event we were to see a surge in admissions or COVID-19 patients,” said Norman. “You can probably appreciate that this was an incredibly hard decision and we realize the effects this will have on our employees who will be impacted. This is especially tough because, as you know, we’ve been at aggressive growth mode here at Penn Highlands over the last several years. This decision to adjust our workforce is 100 percent due to this pandemic. Because our goal remains to deliver safe and essential care to our communities we will continue to move forward on many of our construction projects we’ve announced the past two years.”

Norman said PHH has also analyzed government stimulus packages. Most of those fall in the category of loans, which he said will require repayment and even with what they anticipate receiving, will pale in comparison to their anticipated losses over the next several months.

“During the past few weeks, we’ve been encouraging everyone to see patients taking advantage of the unique remote methods we’ve implemented to deliver care, like the ability to see 200 of our physicians and providers who are hosting patient consult through our MyHealthNow telemedicine app and our parking lot waiting rooms,” said Norman. “The challenge here is that unfortunately, as our volumes are down, there’s still a number of people in our communities that need care and need to seek care.”