Coronavirus in Ohio: TriHealth senior leaders to take 20% pay cut .

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

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This story has been updated to correct that TriHealth's statement meant senior leaders, not all workers, will take pay cut.

The statewide order last week to cancel elective surgery led at least two Cincinnati area hospitals to announce belt-tightening that includes job cuts and pay cuts for senior leaders as the region prepares for the expected surge of patients from the novel coronavirus infection.

TriHealth told its workers Thursday that senior leaders are taking a 20% pay cut, and the system will adopt other belt-tightening to get through the pandemic.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is closing offices in Eastgate, Mason and Northern Kentucky. Spokesman Libby Coulton said some workers would be reassigned and others would be "temporarily released."

Ten days ago, the Ohio Department of Health ordered that all elective or nonessential surgery be stopped as hospitals across the state prepare to treat what could be hundreds of patients sick with COVID-19, the respiratory illness that results from infection from the novel coronavirus.

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But elective surgery is a significant revenue stream for hospitals. The Health Collaborative, the region's health nonprofit that serves as a chamber of commerce for the health care industry, said about 170,000 elective surgeries were done in 2018 in 30 area hospitals.

Health care accounts for about one-sixth of the Cincinnati area's economy.

In a letter Thursday to TriHealth employees, Chief Executive Officer Mark Clement said last week's state order to cut all non-essential surgeries affected the system "significantly."

"TriHealth has had to adjust its staffing levels to match the current needs – knowing that those needs will change as this pandemic grows," Clement's letter said. "We are addressing those adjustments in a variety of ways, such as redeploying team members into critical care areas, allowing extended use of vacation and illness time, financially supporting quarantined team members, providing benefits continuation, and, if necessary, reducing hours.

"This affects all TriHealth team members, including senior leaders, who are taking a 20% pay reduction throughout this hopefully once-in-a-lifetime pandemic."

TriHealth spokesman Rob Whitehouse later said the pay cut would apply only to Clement and about 12 other senior leaders, not to the entire workforce.

Clement did not say when the actions would be lifted but assured the workers that the situation was temporary "so we can be fully prepared for the surge in demand which we expect to come from this pandemic and ultimately start the return to routine operations afterward."

Clement said TriHealth has put more than $2 million into a Team Member Emergency Fund for financial support.

Cincinnati Children's is the region's largest employer with 15,000 workers. Coulton said that for those who are not able to work or have been laid off, the system "will continue their regular pay for an extended period of time as we navigate through this fluid situation."

Cincinnati Children's also has an employee emergency fund.

Bo McMillan, a spokesman for Christ Hospital Health Network, said, "No decisions have been made at this time."

St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Northern Kentucky's largest hospital system, has no intention to reduce staff, said spokesman Guy Karrick.

"Our associates and physicians are our greatest assets. They have shown unwavering commitment to caring for families in Northern Kentucky and have risen to the occasion during this global pandemic. We are as committed to them as they are to our patients."

The Enquirer will update this story.