ESCONDIDO – Health care professionals held protests in Poway after more than 200 health care workers were temporarily laid off last week.
But despite the layoffs, county officials said Palomar Medical Center in Escondido is still set to be the site of a 250-bed federal field hospital.
Palomar Health recently announced a 21-day layoff of 221 employees, citing a more than 50 percent decline in emergency department visits and a similar decline in patients throughout the system.
The hospital said in a statement that because “elective surgeries and outpatient services were suspended on March 18 due to COVID-19 safety precautions,” many nurses and caregivers were left without patients to care for.
The announcement came one week after Palomar Medical Center in Escondido was selected for a 250-bed FEMA field hospital to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Protesters raised concerns about the state of the planned field hospital in light of the temporary layoffs.
Craig Sturak, communications officer with the county of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency, told The Coast News that the equipment for the facility at Palomar Health has arrived and will be set up this week.
The hospital said that 74 percent of those affected by the layoffs were from surgery and outpatient departments, the remaining positions were support roles not directly related to patient care.
They added that all those affected would be immediately eligible for unemployment and will retain their health insurance throughout the 21-day temporary layoff.
“This is a very difficult time for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unforeseen challenges and extreme difficulties to healthcare systems across the county,” Palomar Health President and CEO Diane Hansen said in a statement. “Issuing temporary layoffs was not an easy decision and was only done after much consideration and many other measures. The health and well-being of all our employees is important to us and we expect to bring our Palomar Health family back to work as quickly as possible.”
The temporary layoffs went into effect on April 8. Palomar Health officials said they will reassess the situation at the end of the 21-day period.