By Ed Martin, Editor
Artwork greets visitors at the Hanford Adventist Health facility adjacent to the hospital's birthing center.
Artwork greets visitors at the Hanford Adventist Health facility adjacent to the hospital's birthing center.

As the Coronavirus keeps hospitals, doctors, and other health professionals busy, the healthcare industry as a whole is experiencing a historic downturn in business. This slump could affect the nation’s economy, ultimately hindering a potential recovery.

It’s not because hospitals aren’t busy. In many parts of the country, they are treating multitudes of coronavirus patients. However, in general, patients may be avoiding medical services, a large part, no doubt, due to the prevalence of COVID-19. Hospitals are postponing elective surgeries; dentists’ offices are closed, and emergency rooms aren’t seeing the numbers they used to.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in California, thousands of medical staff have been laid off or furloughed, even asked to take pay cuts. The Times stated that job losses in the healthcare sector have been second only to those in the restaurant industry, citing federal labor statistics.

In general, people are avoiding medical services, partly from fear of the COVID-19 virus. According to a Becker’s Hospital Review, more than 200 hospitals across the nation have furloughed workers.

The federal government has seen the economic pain that the pandemic has caused health care providers, and lawmakers recently approved $175 billion in federal aid for health care providers damaged by the pandemic.

Hanford’s Adventist Hospital, like others in California and the nation, has furloughed some staff. A spokesperson for the hospital did not provide a specific number, but it is clear that the local hospital is not the only health facility hurting.

Fresno’s St. Agnes Medical Center, according to news reports, has furloughed 175 employees. According to reports, Adventist’s Bakersfield hospital has furloughed employees, due to significant reductions in patient visits and services – due to COVID-19.

“Health systems throughout the nation are experiencing significant reductions in patient visits and services due to COVID-19. As a result, we are faced with painful but necessary decisions to adjust our staffing to reflect our reduced patient volumes so that we can continue caring for our community during this unprecedented time,” said Adventist Communications Manager Amanda Jaurigui.  “Reductions included flexing staff, furloughing positions, reducing hours or salaries, temporarily reducing positions, and permanently reducing positions.

“These difficult decisions directly affect people we love during a challenging time. We are making every effort to minimize the impacts of this pandemic on our associates and provide them with support,” she said.

Jaurigui was unable to provide a specific number of furloughs, but she said many of them are temporary and based on patient needs.

Adventist Health has attempted to make things easier for the wary patient, recently offering care for minor illnesses, like the occasional earache, a cold, or a mild cough. In that light, the local hospital is offering drive-up care at its Adventist Medical Office, at 1025 N. Douty from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Adventist says patients don’t even have to leave their vehicle.

Adventist also recently earned an A grade for patient safety, its second A safety grade in a row. The letter grades are assigned to all general hospitals across the country and updated every six months, based on how well the hospital prevents medical errors and other harm to patients.


Patients wary about visiting hospitals during COVID-19, forcing furloughs, cutbacks