Across the country, plunging revenues from canceled nonemergency medical appointments have forced hospitals to furlough or cut the pay of doctors, nurses and other staff.
As hospitals across the country brace for an onslaught of coronavirus patients, doctors, nurses and other health care workers — even in emerging hot spots — are being furloughed, reassigned or told they must take pay cuts.
The job cuts, which stretch from Massachusetts to Nevada, are a new and possibly urgent problem for a business-oriented health care system whose hospitals must earn revenue even in a national crisis. Hospitals large and small have canceled many elective services — often under state government orders — as they prepare for the virus, sending revenues plummeting.
That has left trained health care workers sidelined, even in areas around Detroit and Washington, where infection rates are climbing, and even as hard-hit hospitals are pleading for help.
“I’m 46. I’ve never been on unemployment in my life,” said Casey Cox, who three weeks ago worked two jobs, one conducting sleep research at the University of Michigan and another as a technician at the St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital near Ann Arbor, Mich. Within a week, he had lost both.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York has begged doctors and other medical workers from around the country to come to the city to help in areas where the coronavirus is overwhelming hospitals.
“Unless there is a national effort to enlist doctors, nurses, hospital workers of all kinds and get them where they are needed most in the country in time, I don’t see, honestly, how we’re going to have the professionals we need to get through this crisis,” Mr. de Blasio said Friday morning on MSNBC.
And the Department of Veterans Affairs is scrambling to hire health care workers for its government-run hospitals, especially in hard-hit New Orleans and Detroit, where many staff members have fallen ill. The department moved to get a federal waiver to hire retired medical workers to beef up staff levels.
But even as some hospitals are straining to handle the influx of coronavirus patients, empty hospital beds elsewhere carry their own burden.
“We’re in trouble,” said Gene Morreale, the chief executive of Oneida Health Hospital in upstate New York, which has not yet seen a surge in coronavirus patients.
Governors in dozens of states have delivered executive orders or guidelines directing hospitals to stop nonurgent procedures and surgeries to various degrees. Last month, the United States surgeon general, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, also implored hospitals to halt elective procedures.