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Penn Highlands Healthcare Cuts 600 Staff, Citing Financial Stress From COVID-19

Photo of the outside of the Penn Highlands DuBois hospital
Penn Highlands Healthcare

Although Shaun Sheehan, head of Penn Highlands Healthcare’s COVID-19 task force, believes the system’s five rural hospitals have been well equipped to handle the outbreak so far, he worries about the financial pressure the crisis has put on the hospitals.

“We're having significant financial stress related to our outpatient business being cut from as much as 60% of what we have seen historically,” Sheehan said in an interview with WPSU earlier this week. 

“So I think that that is going to be the biggest impact we see coming out of this. Of course, there are some assistance programs available, but, whether that will be adequate, I think is probably not the case at this point,” he said.

On Wednesday, Penn Highlands Healthcare announced it would cut 600 staff through a combination of layoffs, furloughs until the end of May, and the elimination of outside agency staffing. 

In a release, the group said this was due to “a dramatic decline in elective surgeries and procedures as well as preventive care visits and outpatient testing.”

Penn Highlands Healthcare CEO Steven Fontaine said it was a difficult decision, “but if we did not take meaningful and decisive action, the long-term viability of our health system is at risk. I hope we will be able to recall many of these affected workers once the pandemic subsides and volumes increase."

Penn Highlands promised the cut would not compromise patient care or safety. The group employs about 4,400 workers across the system. It said there are no plans to further reduce staffing in the future.

Min Xian reported at WPSU from 2016-2022.
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