Tens of thousands of medical workers across the US are suddenly out of work as operating rooms and doctor’s offices go dark, casualties of urgent calls to prioritize coronavirus patients at overwhelmed hospitals and of the economic waves the crisis is churning, the AP reports. Even as hospitals scrounge for professionals from the industry to treat the burgeoning numbers of people with COVID-19, others are on the sidelines as elective procedures, diagnostics, and appointments are canceled or postponed. For instance, many nurse anesthetists in Pennsylvania have been laid off, even though they are particularly critical to the coronavirus response because they can help intubate patients and manage them on ventilators.
Big-city physician and specialist groups, tiny independent hospitals from Oregon to Connecticut, and big multistate hospital systems are seeing big dropoffs in revenue and laying off or furloughing hundreds of workers. The cuts are driven primarily by pressure from state and federal officials to shelve elective procedures and other services to preserve hospital beds, while many patients are postponing appointments to observe social distance restrictions. “But they may be in areas where there will be growth in the virus, which makes layoffs particularly alarming, because hospitals are gearing up or should be gearing up even in places where coronavirus is not an emergency as it in other parts of the country,” says an official at the Kaiser Family Foundation.