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Thinking differently during COVID-19: Re-deploying staff saves jobs and makes a community impact

  • Category: COVID-19
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Thinking differently during COVID-19: Re-deploying staff saves jobs and makes a community impact

The financial and operational impact of COVID-19 has forced many difficult decisions and caused health systems and hospitals to get creative in managing their responses. One of the toughest areas to address during the initial disruption caused by COVID-19 came in the area of staffing. As volumes for scheduled surgeries dropped off significantly in March, April and May, even the most financially stable organizations faced damaging losses in revenue that are estimated to be over $200 billion nationwide.

For more than 270 health systems and hospitals around the country, facing that situation forced the difficult decision to furlough or lay off employees to help offset revenue losses. At Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, the organization’s leadership took a different approach.

“As we responded to a deep reduction in scheduled surgeries, we wanted to find a practical way to support our employees by helping them continue to receive their full salaries and remain productive,” said SVMHS President/CEO Pete Delgado. “Everybody wanted to keep working, and our leaders wanted to keep our great staff employed during what we knew would not be a permanent reduction in surgical volume. What to have them do instead as their regular work dropped off was the major question we had to answer.”

Reflecting on that question resulted in the creation of the SVMHS Community and Staff Support Project (CSSP). Launched publicly in early April, the CSSP redeployed staff to assist with a variety of community service projects and internal support initiatives. Any employee who saw a reduction in their regularly scheduled work hours was eligible and encouraged to participate. Members of the community could solicit help through a simple sign-up form on the company’s website.

“At first, the response was a bit slow. I think most community organizations were still trying to figure out how to even operate during the first stages of COVID-19,” Delgado explained. “However, we quickly started launching our own external outreach programs and used staff to support a variety of important internal initiatives. Things picked up really quickly form there and the impact has been amazing.”

As of July 1, more than 185 SVMHS employees have worked 10,500 hours as part of the CSSP. Community organizations supported so far have included the Salvation Army, homeless shelters and many others. Internal projects included staffing a COVID-19 phone hotline, distributing masks on the hospital campus, screening visitors and supporting a wide variety of hospital departments.

Note: This is the first in a series of featured articles on this program.