LEWISTON — Central Maine Healthcare announced Wednesday that it will furlough about 300 workers “to ensure stabilized finances as it prepares for a surge in patients battling the coronavirus.”

The move affects about 10% of the health system’s approximately 3,000-member workforce. According to the system, 64% of those furloughed staff members volunteered.

The temporary leaves take effect Sunday. Employees will continue to receive health insurance, with CMHC paying the employer and employee part of the cost.

CMHC does not expect the furlough to last more than 90 days. Leave may be shorter in some cases. Furloughed employees will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits once they use any accrued paid time off, according to CMHC.

The furloughs impact nearly every department of the health system, which includes Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Bridgton Hospital and Rumford Hospital, as well as clinics and medical practices throughout the region.

Like other health systems in Maine, CMHC rescheduled elective procedures, surgeries and doctor’s appointments as COVID-19 took hold in Maine. That drop in work led to steep drops in revenue, according to the system.


“We deeply appreciate and are grateful for the sacrifices of our team members at this difficult time,” CEO Jeff Brickman said in a statement released Wednesday. “Health care organizations everywhere are seeing an immediate economic impact of this pandemic. We needed to act prudently now, to ensure our viability going forward and our growth in a post-COVID future.”

The announcement comes one day after Gov. Janet Mills said the state will give hospitals $10 million more in Medicaid supplemental payments to help with the costs associated with COVID-19. The Maine Hospital Association has said it is grateful for that money but it will not be enough to alleviate the financial strain on hospitals.

CMHC officials said the furloughs will not affect patient care, adding that many of the furloughed staffers work in nonclinical areas or support roles.

In addition to the furloughs, CMHC has temporarily consolidated several medical practices or reduced their hours. Senior executives, including the CEO, are taking temporary pay cuts, and other leaders are deferring 5% to 10% of their pay. Spokeswoman Kate Carlisle said she could not provide details about pay cuts for the CEO and other senior executives.

It’s unclear whether additional workers may be furloughed. Carlisle said there are too many unknowns — how long the pandemic will last, when it will peak in Maine, what a surge will look like for Maine hospitals — for the system to speculate on the future.

“We hope to call our team members back to work soon,” she said.

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