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Calif. hospital system implements pay cuts, furloughs for 14,000 workers amid pandemic

Calif. hospital system implements pay cuts, furloughs for 14,000 workers amid pandemic
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A California hospital system announced plans last week to institute pay reductions and furlough some workers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a letter sent to Stanford Health Care staff last week indicated that employees could opt for a 20 percent pay reduction between this week and July 4, or decide instead to use paid time off for the period. Employees could also choose to accept a furlough and apply for unemployment benefits.

Stanford CEO David Entwistle added in the letter to employees that the period of furloughs and pay reductions could be extended depending on the status of the coronavirus outbreak in July.

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The Chronicle reported that the cuts and furloughs would apply to the hospital system's roughly 14,000 employees.

Many states, including California, have suspended elective medical procedures amid the outbreak, which has freed up hospital resources but also ended a major source of income. A spokesperson for Stanford Hospital told the Chronicle that its facilities had also not seen a surge in hospitalizations related to the coronavirus, preceding the decision for employee cuts.

“People are shocked,” Linda Cornell, a unit secretary at a nursing station in the hospital system, told the Chronicle. “It’s like: ‘Why are they doing this?’ It doesn’t seem right.”

“This measure will not impact any of our operations,” Stanford Health Care said in a statement. “We continue to provide the safest, highest quality care for our patients and remain dedicated to pioneering research and effective clinical therapies to address this evolving situation.”

Union leaders blasted the announcement, calling it an insult to health care workers on the front lines.

“These health care workers at Stanford, and everywhere else, are heroically going into work every day in circumstances where they’re literally putting their health on the line,” said Steve Trossman of the SEIU-UHW, which represents roughly 2,000 workers affected by the cuts. “Stanford’s reward to them for this is to cut their pay by 20 percent. It’s really outrageous."