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Baxter Regional, Citing Drop in Visits, Furloughs 105 Employees

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Baxter Regional Medical Center of Mountain Home said this week that it has furloughed 105 employees as patient volume declines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hospital, which employs about 1,700 people, said it will continue to provide health insurance to workers on furlough.

In a statement on Monday, the hospital said that fewer people are choosing to receive health care services because “they are doing the right thing and staying home.” But that’s led to decline to a “significant decrease in volume throughout the organization, whether it is in emergency services, physician offices or inpatient stays.” 

“This decrease in volume and increase in costs has a significant financial impact on Baxter Regional, and very difficult but necessary decisions have been made to respond to these challenges and prepare the organization for what lies ahead,” the hospital said.

Baxter isn’t the only Arkansas hospital putting workers on the sidelines and cutting costs. Baptist Health of Little Rock announced last week that it would furlough an undisclosed number of employees; North Arkansas Regional Medical Center of Harrison said Friday it would furlough 35 employees. Arkansas Heart Hospital told KARK-TV, Channel 4, last week that it would also furlough workers.

Baxter said it is also putting a hold on annual market-based pay increases; reducing executive and leadership team salaries; requiring some employees to flex or work reduced hours; and suspending the hiring of noncritical positions.   

“At this time, Baxter Regional anticipates that these measures will be temporary, and it is their hope to recall all employees impacted back to work as soon as possible,” the hospital said. “Baxter Regional will evaluate this decision every four weeks, as they continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and rely on governmental guidance and industry best practices with respect to future decisions.”

The hospital has been ramping up telemedicine services in recent months. Arkansas Business reported last week Baxter’s urgent-care-on-demand app, released in February 2019, facilitated about 400 patient visits last year. Last month, it launched a pilot program at one of its family clinics that lets patients schedule telemedicine visits, and the hospital was looking to expand the program to its primary care and specialists’ clinics.

Founded in 1963, Baxter has 268 beds and sees patients from north-central Arkansas and south-central Missouri. It report $221 million in net patient revenue in its most recent fiscal year, up 3.8% from the previous year, according to Arkansas Business’ most recent hospitals list, published in September.

(Mark Friedman contributed to this report.)

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