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St. Joseph's cuts staff, urgent care facilities due to COVID-related costs

St. Joseph's Hospital

Administrators at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse are closing its two urgent care facilities and laying off employees. CFO Meredith Price said in the last few months, revenues from elective surgeries -which were put on hold for two months- have dipped at a time when the costs related to preparing staff to handle coronavirus cases continue to increase.

"We had a significant financial loss in the month of April," Price said. "Our overall revenue was down 50 percent to what it had been running on a pre-COVID baseline and costs had clearly escalated as a result of training staff and PPE and all of the equipment and things that were needed. So, we did see a nearly $18 million loss in the month of April."

To make matters worse, treating patients for COVID-19 results in a loss to the hospital because of the length of stay and amount of care required. And while the hospital is starting to recover thanks to more elective procedures, Price said it will take awhile to get back to where St. Joe's was operating prior to the pandemic. So, they're cutting jobs, primarily administrative positions. How many of St. Joe's 4,800 employees will be laid off has not been specified yet.

"One of the things that we are looking to do is trying to make sure we are secure for the future to be here for the patients and community," Price said. "We do expect the recovery to continue, however, we do have a long road ahead of us, so [we're] preparing for that and understanding that it will take some time to get back to 100 percent to baseline and where we were pre-COVID."

St. Joe's is one of several hospitals in the region suffering financially as a result of the pandemic. Congress loaned hospitals billions as part of the stimulus bill, but many across the country are still struggling to raise the revenue to repay them. That's why representatives like Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) have introduced a bill that would forgive those loans.