Even in the eyes of one of the largest collective medical emergencies in world history, business is managing to get the best of one of Santa Barbara’s staples for healthcare.
Sansum Clinic, the Central Coast’s largest outpatient healthcare provider, announced that it was putting 50% of its workforce on furlough due to declining financials that see the clinic losing millions of dollars each week.
“We don’t need six workers if there is only work for two,” Sansum Clinic CEO Dr. Kurt Ransohoff told the News-Press. “We’ve been resisting that because we didn’t want to do it. We had to match our workforce to what our (new) volume is.”
According to Dr. Ransohoff, there has been a 50% drop in volume of patients, as well as a 50% drop in revenues, the latter mostly attributed to the loss of elective surgeries and colonoscopies, amongst other procedures.
The 50% reduction in workforce via furlough represents about one-third of its payroll.
“This was very painful,” Dr. Ransohoff said. “We’ve never seen something like this in our 100-year existence. We need to make sure we are there at the other end of it.”
Dr. Ransohoff pointed to two priorities that contributed to making the temporary reduction decision:
- Supporting the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department in canceling all elective surgeries
- Having patients stay home if they are ill
With the latter, Dr. Ransohoff said that the clinic had done nearly 400 video chats with patients on Thursday alone.
“Those are incredibly valuable, but it doesn’t replace the financials of surgeries,” he said. “We could do up to 500 (surgeries) in a month.”
Dr. Ransohoff indicated that the clinic, which is celebrating its 99th year, has worked on modeling that indicates that the furlough should be in effect for about eight weeks.
“We pray that sometime before then things get back to normal,” Dr. Ransohoff said.
The clinic is also helping for federal aid, particularly in light of the $2 trillion economic stimulus package that is awaiting House vote today.
Sansum is different than other nonprofit clinics in that it operates independently — known as a 1206(l) medical foundation — and is not associated with a neighboring hospital.
This could put aid at risk, as hospitals will likely be a priority due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Others in California (unlike Sansum), they are affiliated with a hospital,” Dr. Ransohoff said. “They have deeper pockets to be able to weather a storm, because they have a bigger entity behind them.”
Dr. Ransohoff offered coincidence in the timing of Thursday’s announcement, as it came the morning after the federal stimulus package reportedly will offer up to four months of full-pay furlough for American workers.
“We finally calculated what we needed to do, how we were going to do it, who we needed to tell, and how we were going to tell them,” Dr. Ransohoff. “It was complete coincidence.”
As for the impact that this could have on the clinic’s patients, Dr. Ransohoff was confident that they wouldn’t feel a thing.
“If we’ve done it correctly — and time will tell — there shouldn’t be a difference,” he said. “There will just be fewer people around.”