Princeton Community Hospital

Princeton Community Hospital is seen in this 2019 file photo.

PRINCETON — Princeton Community Hospital outlined Monday the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on its operations since it began and how it has brought about furloughs and reduced hours for its employees.

The hospital experienced the first financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March when volumes in the surgical department were dramatically reduced due to the executive order to stop elective and non-emergency surgeries and to limit outpatient procedures, PCH officials said.

PCH Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey E. Lilley said in a press release that in mid-March and into early-April revenue losses mounted as therapies and rehab were scaled back significantly. The hospital was facing a major reduction in revenue through this time due to the COVID-19 impact.

Many steps were taken by PCH to mitigate those losses; chief among them was the reduction of employee hours. Some salary-exempt staff had their hours temporarily reduced from 40 to 32 hours per week, some employees were furloughed due to the closure of certain services, and some salary-exempt staff volunteered to take unpaid leave, PCH officials said in a press release.

All employees, including managers and executive team members, were asked to take time off using either PTO (personal time off) or unpaid leave, according to PCH officials. Those who could take off one day per week or one day per pay period did so. 

The implementation of telemedicine at all Mercer Medical Group clinics and The Behavioral Health Pavilion’s outpatient facility enabled the clinics to reduce staff while maintaining safe patient appointments via telephone or computer. These steps reflected a 20 percent reduction in productive hours at its peak, PCH officials stated.

“Although volumes dropped prior, on March 23, we stopped elective surgeries. The cessation of elective surgeries was mandated by the state on March 26. The hospital experienced a 39 percent reduction in gross revenue to budget at the end of April with an estimated shortfall in net revenue of $4.8 million. Although we received a stimulus check from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, it fell short of making us whole. We are hopeful that additional stimulus money is coming, but that is uncertain at this time,” PCH Chief Financial Officer Frank Sinicrope said.

Fifteen to 20 percent of PCH employees have applied for unemployment, which indicates they had some degree of reduced earnings that would qualify them. PTO hours taken have doubled since mid-March. The hospital has about 1,000 employees, Director of Marketing Richard Hypes said.

 “Our employees have worked together to make the best of this situation and ensure that our patients are well taken care of while taking steps to mitigate the cost of the COVID pandemic,” PCH Director of Human Resources Heather Poff said.

With the resumption of elective surgeries and other outpatient procedures on April 28, and with “the sacrifices made by employees over the past two months, the hospital hopes to recover from the financial losses in a relatively short period of time,” PCH officials said.

Employee hours have been increasing, Hypes said.

“And we are seeing an increase in our surgical caseload every day,” he stated. “In fact, there’s a backlog of surgical cases.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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