ASHTABULA — Some employees at Ashtabula County Medical Center will be temporarily furloughed after state officials issued orders to reduce elective surgeries and procedures. Workers will be recalled as COVID-19 cases increase or elective surgery resumes.

As part of the response to COVID-19, the hospital created a labor pool and reassigned caregivers whose departments saw decreased numbers into areas that needed to ramp up its response to COVID-19, such as people standing at the doors, screening everyone who enters the hospital or clinic, and additional phone nurses, said ACMC Healthcare System President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Habowski.

ACMC also began cross training additional staff so they can support other clinical departments in anticipation of a surge of new patients associated with the virus. This lessens the number of caregivers who are affected by the temporary furlough, he said.

“While it is never easy to furlough caregivers, even on a temporary basis, we are grateful for the steps taken by the state of Ohio and the federal government that will reduce the financial impact to our caregivers," Habowski said. "ACMC has committed to keep caregivers whole through this slow down and will continue to do so through April 11."

ACMC will pay both the hospital’s and the furloughed caregivers’ portion of the health insurance premiums for April, May and June, if they were on the hospital's insurance plan on April 1.

The hospital has begun notifying the impacted employees. The situation will be monitored on a weekly basis, but there is no set time frame for when it will revert to normal operations. Furloughed employees will be given a packet that provides information about applying for state and federal unemployment compensation, as well as information about additional local resources that may be of assistance during this time.

“This decision was made with a heavy heart and only after considerable time was spent searching for other options. ACMC’s commitment to Ashtabula County has always been — and continues to be — providing the highest quality care so our residents can remain close to home to receive the care they need," Habowski said. "Our caregivers are the most important part of fulfilling that commitment. By enacting this temporary furlough now, we are ensuring ACMC is not only best positioned to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to remain sustainable to meet the health needs of our communities for the future."

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