COVID-19 prompts McLaren Macomb to temporarily furlough 10-20 nurses

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Mount Clemens — McLaren Macomb Hospital plans to temporarily furlough 10-20 nurses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials with the health care system said Tuesday.

The hospital is the latest to trim pay and benefits for employees to stay afloat through the public health crisis. 

MoreFurloughs, pay cuts, benefit trims hit Michigan hospitals during outbreak

McLaren Macomb Hospital

"Like many healthcare systems across the country and here in Michigan, this national health crisis has significantly impacted our operations," Tom Brisse, McLaren Macomb's president and CEO, said Tuesday in a statement. "As we eliminate non-essential procedures in line with the Governor’s order and CDC recommendations, surgical patient volumes have been greatly reduced.

"In response, we have offered our surgical services nursing team the opportunity to take voluntary temporary furloughs, which allows them to preserve their paid vacation time and apply for unemployment," Brisse said. "We developed this approach after discussion with nursing union leadership, who indicated that our nurses would be eager to take this option. We don’t have the final list but we expect between 10 to 20 nurses from our surgical services team to be on voluntary furlough through May 2."

Dina Carlisle, vice president of Local 40 of the Office & Professional Employees International Union, confirmed the nurses will be temporarily furloughed. She said the furloughs could begin as soon as Thursday.

Local 40 represents 1,000 registered nurses and 650 nurses at McLaren Macomb.

"The hospital notified us Monday that it was necessary for them to furlough the RNs," said Carlisle, a registered nurse who works in the recovery room at McLaren Macomb. "I'm not going to say that we agreed to it. We really didn't have a choice."

She said there is one bright spot: Every furloughed McLaren Macomb RN will retain his or her insurance. "That's a huge thing," Carlisle said.

She also said she would like to see McLaren Macomb not require nurses and employees use their paid time off if they get sick while caring for COVID-19 patients like many of its competitors have done. For example, Michigan Medicine has given an additional 120 hours of special-use paid time off to employees if they need to self-quarantine.

McLaren Macomb is a 288-bed acute care hospital and health care provider in Mount Clemens that serves Macomb County. It has more than 400 physicians and nearly 2,000 employees. It is owned and operated by Grand Blanc-based McLaren Health Care, which has 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, imaging centers and 26,000 employees. 

McLaren officials said the furloughs will not impact the care it provides to its patients. 

Shela Khan Monroe, vice president of Labor and Employment Relations for McLaren Health Care, said Tuesday in a statement the hospital and health care system continues to maintain the staff necessary to provide direct patient care throughout this national health crisis.  

"The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted all businesses, including hospitals, physician offices and other ambulatory health care services," she said. "Like most hospitals and health systems, our patient volumes are down significantly as a result of the cancellation of non-essential procedures and other factors.

"In response, we have put measures in place such as temporary furloughs and voluntary time off to minimize employee layoffs and reduce expenses until patient volumes return to pre-COVID levels."

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez