The same group of workers tasked with treating those afflicted with the coronavirus has also lost work in droves since the pandemic started. The picture looks bleak as emergency room visits went down and non-urgent surgical procedures have been largely put on hold.

According to the Labor Department. 1.4 million health care workers lost their jobs in April, a sharp increase from the 42,000 reported in March. Healthcare spending also fell 18% in the first three months of the year with 256 hospitals furloughing workers in response to COVID-19. The American Hospital Association recently predicted that U.S. hospitals and health systems would end up taking a $200 billion hit over a four-month period through June.

However, with states lifting lockdowns and elective surgeries being allowed to resume, another problem surfaces: what if the staff doesn’t want to come back from furlough?

Safety Concerns of Going Back into ASC’s

While no one wants to be furloughed or unemployed indefinitely, recent surveys show that many Americans have mixed feelings about returning to work right now.

A recent Bankrate survey revealed the following:

  • 55% of Americans believe businesses are reopening too soon
  • 35 percent say they will be comfortable visiting businesses within a month, while 19 percent say they’d rather wait between one month and less than three months

It is expected that ASC’s have taken extraordinary precautions to protect patients, staff, and physicians. Some surgery centers have also offered their facility to the local hospital as a non-COVID overflow option.

Healthcare facilities like ambulatory surgery centers follow strict safety measures and new procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection. For example:

  • Requiring all providers, staff, and patients to be screened for COVID-19
  • Staff being tested on a weekly basis at minimum
  • Patients being tested several days before their surgical procedure
  • Requirement to wear a mask, face covering, and the appropriate PPE
  • Social distancing measures, sanitizing, and regular disinfection

Confidence in the safety of healthcare facilities is in large due to rapid testing. In early March, it could take 7 to 10 days for results to come back. But now, people can see results within one or two days.

Some ASC Employees Will Make More with Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

To help people financially cope with job loss during a pandemic, the federal government—through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)—is providing an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits.

This amount is in addition to what the states already pay, which is in the range of $200 to $450 per week. So many are taking in an average of $1000 per week in unemployment benefits.

An unintended and unexpected consequence of the multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package (CARES Act) is that workers are asking to be laid off or reluctant to go back to work after being furloughed. Employers say this is complicating their plans to reopen business.

However, the $600 extra dollars last only up until July 25. So furloughed workers who decline to return to their jobs are playing a dangerous game. When the benefits run out and people return to the job market, people will face intense competition from the massive amount of other unemployed people.

Child Care Concerns as Daycare Facilities are Not Yet Reopening

Another big hurdle that surgery centers face is the lack of childcare, which is quickly emerging as one of the biggest barriers to recover from the healthcare crisis.

Some staff members can’t go back to work without someone to care for their children, whether preschool or daycare facility, babysitter, or relatives. Even if they can find childcare, they’re often worried that states are moving too quickly and may be putting their children at risk.

With this problem, how can staff go back to work? And if they can’t go back to work now, how will they afford alternate forms of childcare so they eventually can?

Maintaining Staff Morale While Navigating Tough New Decisions

The coronavirus epidemic is negatively impacting staff morale in more ways than what healthcare leaders can expect.

As they interact with patients, healthcare staff are not only at high risk of infection but also of overwork and exhaustion handling more work due to staff shortages. Some staff who are also working lesser hours are having financial pressures that will add to their emotional burdens.

ASC leaders have a critical role in maintaining staff morale as they strive to preserve job security for their staff.

The most important thing that your surgery center can do is to have trustworthy, visible leaders. This is critical in the current COVID-19 crisis when there is so much uncertainty over supplies, patient, and staff safety.

Healthcare executives need to be communicating with staff on a regular basis:

  • By reassuring staff that they understand the situation and have a plan to manage it.
  • By thinking about the future, chronicling lessons learned, and updating the employee engagement surveys to take into consideration this crisis
  • By helping staff understand what they need to do to get back to normal in a post-virus environment

How Mnet Can Help

As you resume business again, your center will have staffing related problems. At the same time, having a focus on patient payments can free up limited staff to keep building case volume.

Mnet is ready, willing, and able to field inbound patient payment calls, even on a temporary basis, using our Remote Call Center technology (RCC) and Patient Financial Advocates (PFAs).  Mnet has tailored our remote assistance to be a seamless transition for your ASC with limited commitment.

Our main goal is to help our loyal clients and help preserve the integrity of our industry as we work through this challenging time together.

  • Open your doors sooner with an already fully functioning patient pay department
  • Centers reopening can focus on scheduling cases while remote call center reps focus on payments
  • Maintain extended business office hours going forward
  • Stretch start-up dollars: Avoid out-of-pocket expenses for as long as possible with performance-based fees

Call 866.648.4677 or email contact@mnethealth.com today to see how Mnet Health is helping patients pay.