Portland, Maine – Noting that none of its employees have been laid off or seen their pay and benefits diminished, MaineHealth today released details on how it is redeploying staff amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In an effort to provide financial security and assurance to our employees at a time when so much is being demanded of them, we have decided that all MaineHealth employees who are sent home for any COVID-19- related reason will receive their regular pay and benefits and will not be required to use paid time off,” said Judith West, chief human resources officer of MaineHealth.
As part of planning for the pandemic response, MaineHealth has postponed elective procedures and non-urgent medical appointments. As a result, some care team members have naturally seen their work hours reduced, or in rare cases, have seen their work hours totally eliminated. These employees continue to receive the same level of pay and benefits they had prior to the pandemic, meaning if a 40-hour-per-week employee is not working for 10 hours a week, they are still being paid for 40 hours. Across the healthcare system, which employs 22,000, about 12 percent of employees have seen a reduction in the number of hours on the job and less than 2 percent have seen all their shifts eliminated.
West said, however, that the staffing situation is very fluid as planning for the pandemic responses develops. As part of this process MaineHealth is evaluating on an ongoing basis the licenses, certifications and skills of its employees, and where appropriate, reassigning them to roles in support of the COVID-19 response.
“Our care team members are eager to help in any way they can,” said West. “Our goal is to keep our staff resources intact so that we can meet the challenges that might arise as the outbreak progresses.”
Across the system, team members have stepped up where needed. The goal is to leverage existing skills into new functions rather than completely change someone’s job. So, for instance, physicians and advanced practice providers previously assigned to neurosurgery, urology, cardiac surgery and primary care are instead serving as physicians and advanced practice providers at COVID-19 testing sites and respiratory assessment centers. Doctors and nurses have been redeployed to employee health so that they can answer team members’ health-related questions. MaineHealth support staff has also been assigned to assist with community blood drives to help address the shortage of donated blood at this time.
West said MaineHealth’s scale as the largest health system in northern New England has provided flexibility and resources as planning for the pandemic response has progressed. “Our local health systems know they have the strength of our entire system behind them as they deliver care in the communities we serve,” she said.
West said the current staffing policies will be reviewed on roughly a monthly basis with the next such review scheduled in the next two weeks. “This is a very dynamic situation,” she said. “As such, we are constantly evaluating our approach with the goal of supporting our team so they can provide excellent care throughout this crisis.”