COVID-19 forces layoffs at Parkview hospital as $70m expansion finalized

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PUEBLO, Colo. — Parkview Medical Center confirmed 22 hospital positions were eliminated this past week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff from the hospital have reported more layoffs in recent months, as the pandemic forced hospitals to halt elective surgeries to prepare for a worst-case scenario with the virus. A spokesperson from the hospital did not immediately return requests for confirmation of further cuts.

Parkview stopped elective surgeries in mid-March at the direction of state orders. The move was to preserve personal protective equipment and make beds available for a potential influx of coronavirus patients.

Unlike other areas across the country that were hit hard by the virus, Pueblo and surrounding counties never saw its capacity surpassed throughout the height of the pandemic. There have been 352 cases in Pueblo County, according to state health department data, and 22 deaths.

This round of layoffs didn’t eliminate any departments, according to Parkview spokesperson Rachael Morris. She said severance packages were offered to the 22 employees, but details regarding those offerings couldn’t be released for employee privacy.

“Parkview (employs) 3,200 people – although we take this very seriously, the amount of layoffs is less than 1%,” she said in an email.

Those positions won’t be refilled, she confirmed. It’s unclear whether most of those cut positions were administrative jobs or positions that worked directly with patients.

While news of layoffs has rippled through the hospital, Morris said no capital projects have been thwarted due to a grim economic picture at the hospital, “our helipad should open mid-July!”

The hospital is currently finalizing its $70 million “master plan,” which added approximately 13,000 square feet to the hospital’s emergency department.

Parkview isn’t alone in its financial struggles following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Hospital Association estimates hospital losses totaling $50.7 billion per month from the pandemic.

Some, including Gov. Jared Polis, point to fears of the virus as a reason why people have shied away from emergency rooms and health care facilities amid the pandemic, causing further economic hardship.

“If you would have gone to the hospital in January, you should still go,” he said at a news conference Monday, adding that avoiding the hospital because of a fear of contracting COVID-19 can also be “dangerous and unsafe.”

Asked about supporting hospitals that serve rural and underserved areas, Polis said he’s pleased state lawmakers have passed a reinsurance program, which allows for many Coloradans to be better insured, which Polis said, will positively impact hospitals.