Cody Regional Health is implementing pay cuts to leadership and doctors, and giving furloughs to many nonclinical staff in an effort to weather the downturn in hospital services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This move comes at about the same time the hospital will begin to slowly allow some elective procedures to be done, although those will be limited in part to requirements to prevent the spread of the virus.

West Park Hospital District Board trustees met virtually Wednesday night to unanimously approve the measures that will be in place for two months -- April 26-July 4 -- after which staff will re-evaluate conditions.

Thursday during an all-staff conference call employees were informed of the changes.

“We’re trying to do this so we don’t run into financial problems down the line,” board chair Lenox Baker said. “Hopefully, things will be better then, but we don’t know.”

CEO Doug McMillan, who is taking the largest single pay cut at 25% of his salary, said the moves were projected to save roughly $1.5 million over the course of the two months.

He had said April 17 in an update with board members that losses for April could be in excess of $3 million. Hospital revenue has been down 60% since the crisis began.

“This is a painful decision and we recognize we have people working extremely hard,” he said after the Wednesday night meeting. “But with financial and volume impact we really have no option. We feel it will help us to continue to provide patient care services and put us in a position to bring all staff back as soon as we can.”

The pay cut will affect all senior leadership, directors and physicians. But aside from doctors, many of the people in direct-patient care positions, such as nurses in the emergency department, will not see any impact.

Staff still taking care of patients on a day-to-day basis will avoid furloughs. 

Staff in certain positions where there is a low volume of patients may also see hours cut back.

Chief Financial Officer Tim Howard, like McMillan a Quorum Healthcare employee, will see a 20% cut for the period beginning with the next pay period. Physicians will see a 15% pay cut. Directors and other leadership will see either 10% or 15% pay cuts.

“Our incident command team has effectively managed the onset of this national COVID pandemic through implementation of an organizational preparedness plan,” McMillan said. “I feel the plan that our staff developed could be a model for rural hospitals across the country.”  

He said many employees have willingly assisted in other areas as needed since March 13. 

“We must continue to be flexible to adapt to future environmental changes and actively plan for the long haul,” he said. “The end of this pandemic is not in sight. There are no good maps to guide us. However, our internal compass always places our employees and patients at the center of all decisions.”

The hospital is also instituting a freeze on capital expenditures, hiring and travel, while all overtime will need prior approval, among other changes.

McMillan said even with the hospital beginning to do some elective procedures again – stopping those was a major reason for the loss of money – offering all the services at the level it was prior to the pandemic will be a lengthy process.

The move to restart those procedures has been approved by the CDC and various medical organizations, McMillan said.

“With all the guidelines and continued screening, we feel very good and confident we’re ready to provide services,” he said.

However, the hospital will continue to restrict visitors and will have fewer rooms available for non-emergency patients.

“It’s going to be slow,” McMillan said.

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