MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. – McLaren Hospital in Macomb County is looking at furloughing a number of nurses as it tries to strike the delicate balance between staffing levels and fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Managing business in the current atmosphere is a struggle for many companies, but it’s particularly tricky for hospitals. COVID-19 has hospitals scrambling, trying to find the right staffing levels to deal with the virus and other emergencies.
But McLaren Hospital in Macomb County has finally decided it has to act by sending some nurses home without pay for a couple of weeks.
“As we eliminate nonessential procedures in line with the governor’s order and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, surgical patient volumes have been greatly reduced,” a hospital spokesperson said in a statement. “In response, we have offered our surgical services nursing team the opportunity to take voluntary temporary furloughs, which allows them to preserve their paid vacation time and apply for unemployment.”
Hospital officials said they started talking with the nurses’ union a week ago, but Union Local 140 President Jeff Morawski said the hospital didn’t handle the situation well.
“They should have been able to do the whole thing at the same time, but I think they thought they were going to need more nurses in each department than what they actually needed,” Morawski said.
His point is that many nurses ended up shuffled around the hospital to work largely with COVID-19 patients, and then when it was time to allow for furloughs, the wrong nurses got the offer, according to Morawski.
He said he’s been busy collecting some 1,200 signatures from nurses and community members to deliver Thursday. The signatures demand the hospital step up its staff support with personal protection equipment, paid leave and hazard pay.
“They’re scared,” Morawski said. “A lot of them are working a lot of hours. We’re getting more and more testing positive that are sick, that are having to stay home.”
Officials said the list hasn’t been finalized, but 10-20 nurses from the surgical services team are expected to be on voluntary furlough through May 2.