Los Alamos Medical Center/Courtesy Photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Medical Center CEO John Whiteside said Tuesday that the hospital is not laying off employees during the COVID-19 emergency.
“We have always flexed hours for nurses depending on volume especially in the summer,” he told the Los Alamos Reporter.
Whiteside said he has found work for nurses within the hospital by moving them to other departments, using them as screeners and even having them make personal protective equipment.
Whiteside said he could neither confirm or deny “rumors” about doctors being off work due to testing positive for COVID-19.
“I can confirm that every shift is covered,” he said.
Whiteside said some employees were concerned about what they were hearing about another Lifepoint facility, Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, which has placed some 125 hospital employees on temporary leave expected to last 60 days.
LAMC employees told the Los Alamos Reporter last weekend that rumors have been running rampant at the facility regarding possible cuts in their hours. They voiced concerns that they may not be able to pay their bills if they work fewer hours.
Elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures were banned March 27 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at medical facilities throughout the state in an effort to preserve PPE for healthcare professionals treating COVID-19 cases.
Whiteside said staff at the facility are doing well and staying upbeat despite the stress. He confirmed that COVID-positive patients are being treated at the hospital and that he has a good supply of PPE on hand.
Whiteside expressed his appreciation to the community for its support of the hospital staff with donations of masks, coffee, snacks, meals, pizza and more during the pandemic.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Governor Lujan Grisham expressed her disappointment in the hospitals in New Mexico that are cutting or furloughing staff. She said through the country hospitals have to be prepared for the emergency surge and peak of COVID-19 cases which means more hospital space and ICU capacity is needed.
“I have to have every ventilator which means your surgical sites and outpatient sites and gastroenterology clinics – all of that has to be available if you need it. The best result is if you don’t need it, but if you need it and you don’t have it, you’re in real trouble,” she said.
The governor noted that the surgical units and outpatient sites are where hospitals by and large make money.
“Hospitals want a guarantee on their profits for the year that they could have had if they had done all those elective surgeries and procedures. Frankly, I find it appalling as we address this public health crisis together,” she said,
Governor Lujan Grisham noted her disappointment that New Mexico hospital behaved in this way even though the financial day-to-day issues are in fact challenging and the federal government didn’t give New Mexico all the monetary opportunities when they were wanted or needed.
“We are encouraging our hospital partners to reemploy and to take away the furloughs and put everybody back on full-time as quickly as they can. And they should expect me to have those very direct conversations with them about that,” she said.