UW Medicine to furlough about 4,000 workers

SEATTLE (AP) - UW Medicine announced furloughs of about 4,000 members of its unionized workforce in spite of the healthcare-system’s position at the forefront of COVID-19 response efforts both locally and globally.

KOMO-TV reports the decision comes a week after the healthcare-system announced that it was furloughing 1,500 professional staff and classified non-union staff to help address the financial challenges caused by COVID-19.

In a statement, officials said it was necessary to address a $500 million financial impact COVID-19 has placed on UW Medicine.

The healthcare-system says the financial situation is the result of lost revenue at clinics due to the cancellation of elective and non-urgent procedures and surgeries as well as the high cost of treating COVID-19 patients, which includes testing and personal protective equipment.

“This has been a very difficult, but necessary, decision to address the financial challenges facing UW Medicine and all healthcare organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lisa Brandenburg, president of UW Medicine Hospitals & Clinics.

The healthcare-system has taken steps to ensure that patient care is not impacted by the decrease in staffing and that they are equipped to deal with possible future surges of patients with COVID-19, Brandenburg said.

Employees will be furloughed for one to eight weeks and will be able to keep their health insurance during this time, according to a press release from UW Medicine.

Harborview Medical Center, both University of Washington Medical Center campuses, UW Neighborhood Clinics, Faculty Practice Plan Services, UW Medicine shared services, and Airlift Northwest are all being affected by the furlough.