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“Transparent and truthful” – hospital leaders address layoffs

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DULUTH, MN-- Duluth hospital leaders answered questions for the first time Thursday since Essentia Health announced hundreds of layoffs.

As coronavirus cases start to climb in our region, hospital leaders say they're working to be ready, which includes cutting non-essential staff.

"There are sacrifices being made by everyone," said Dr. Jon Pryor, President for Essentia East. "When people stay home, that's a sacrifice."

Essentia asked 500 employees to sacrifice their jobs.

Last Thursday, March 26th, Pryor said the hospital was thinking about cutting staff, but didn't have solid plans.

Just three days later, they announced the layoffs.

"We strive to be very transparent and truthful," said Pryor. "We're working seven days a week. It's not like we all of a sudden started thinking about it after that press conference."

Essentia is not alone. Dr. Nick Van Deelen, medical director for St. Luke's, said the hospital has also cut more people after announcing seven lay-offs last week.

"We regret any employee who we don't have enough work for and yet, we have to be good stewards during this time, which may be several weeks," he said.

Both hospitals say they can't afford to pay people who don't have work.

They've seen a drop in revenue since cancelling elective procedures.

"We need every single resource we can to prepare for the surge. This is something that every health system is going through across America," said Pryor.

Both hospitals are hopeful staff will return when they're needed.

The laid-off Essentia staff still have access to their health insurance and they can use paid vacation or sick time.

They're also eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.

Bonney Bowman

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