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SSM Health To Furlough About 2,000 Employees After Seeing Fewer Patients

A view of St. Louis University Hospital in early spring.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis University Hospital is part of the SSM Health system. SSM Health announced Monday that it would furlough about 2,000 employees.

SSM Health is furloughing about 2,000 workers across its health care system starting May 1.

The St. Louis-based health care system announced Monday that employees would be off 13 weeks without pay. The furloughs will affect employees in all four states in SSM’s system: Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

“We are confident these measures will enable us to improve organizational performance while continuing to deliver high-quality, compassionate care for the people who need us,” said Stephanie Zoller, a spokesperson for the hospital system. “Our first priority is to ensure the continued health and safety of our patients, caregivers and communities.”

SSM officials said in a statement that furloughs were necessary due to an approximately 50% drop in patients at the health system’s hospitals. The drop in patients came after the health care system canceled non-urgent procedures, Zoller said.

Other health care systems across the nation also canceled procedures to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

The affected employees make up about 5% of the SSM workforce. Other employees will work reduced hours.

While SSM officials did not disclose how many workers in Missouri and Illinois would be furloughed, they said some employees may return to work before the 13-week furlough is over. 

“Employees on furlough will continue to be employed by SSM Health and can return to their position at the end of the furlough period,” SSM officials said in a statement.

SSM will cover health insurance costs for furloughed workers and give those who apply for unemployment a one-time payment when they return to work if unemployment benefits did not cover their full paychecks.

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.