Essentia Health lays off 500 workers as it prepares for COVID-19 surge

The health system employs 14,500 across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
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Duluth-based Essentia Health has announced 500 layoffs relating to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The company said on Tuesday it's making the cuts in non-medical staffing levels as it prepares for the "expected surge" of COVID-19 patients in the communities it serves.

The health provider employs 14,500 staff across Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Its revenues have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with states including Minnesota introducing a suspension of elective hospital and clinic procedures to ensure there is capacity to handle COVID patients, and to conserve personal protective equipment for frontline staff.

It says it's expecting its revenues to drop 20-40 percent as a result.

“Essentia Health is focused on keeping our staff and communities safe while addressing the challenges of this pandemic," said Essentia CEO David C. Herman, MD.

"We are collaborating with regional partners to share resources and ensure a coordinated response in anticipation of an expected COVID-19 surge. Predictive modeling is taking place both within Essentia Health and via our partners across the states we serve. This data-informed modeling will improve our preparedness."

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The affected 500 staff are being placed on special administrative leave, with Essentia maintaining health insurance "for the near term."

Affected staff can also take paid time off after they've been placed on leave so they can keep getting paid for a few weeks. They can also apply for unemployment benefits.

"The decision to refocus our operations for the coming COVID-19 surge is difficult because we deeply appreciate the contributions of all our Essentia colleagues,” said Dr. Herman.

"We recognize and regret the hardship this uncertainty will have on our coworkers and their families."

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