'The surge that never came' leads to pay, shift cuts for some Bay Area front line health workers

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- During the novel coronaviurs pandemic, the Bay Area is doing what it can to flatten the curve. In the process, local hospitals didn't see the surge many initially prepared for.

Now, some are struggling financially. It's an unfortunate outcome as hospitals scale back non-emergency operations and treatments during COVID-19.

"I guess we're asking, 'Why are we, the front line workers, having to foot the bill for the surge that never came,'" a Stanford Health Care (SHC) nurse told ABC7 News.

EXCLUSIVE: Inside look at COVID-19 surge unit at San Jose's Good Samaritan Hospital

She did not want to reveal her identity. So, ABC7 News agreed to alter her voice.

In an e-mail she shared with ABC7 News that Stanford Health Care president and CEO David Entwistle told workers, in-part, "The anticipated surge has not come, but we must now adapt to the financial impact of these extraordinary events."

Instead of layoffs, SHC is launching a Temporary Workforce Adjustment.

A Stanford spokesperson confirmed it is navigating the unprecedented economic impact of COVID-19 and, "As part of this effort, is implementing a temporary reduction in hours across the organization."

"But we're being asked to use our hard-earned Paid Time Off, or to go unpaid, and file for unemployment until July- or for another ten weeks- if not longer," the nurse revealed.

Or, according to documents provided by the nurse, employees can expect an up to 20-percent pay cut for 10 weeks- between April 27 and July 4.

"I really hope that Stanford reconsiders the impact that this will have on all of us front line workers," she told ABC7 News. "Financially, mentally, and emotionally."

"It was scary, but working on the front line felt right at the same time," she said. "It felt like what we should be doing at a time when our patients and community are scared."

"It actually reminded me why I became a nurse," she added.

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Healthcare professionals who were once deemed essential, who had been called on to prepare for the potential pandemic surge, are now searching for options and answers.

"We never hesitated to say yes to any job that they asked of us," she explained. "Even if it meant going out into the unknown, and risking our lives and putting our loved ones at risk."

This is an unfortunate outcome as many hospitals have had to cut back on non-emergency and elective procedures during the pandemic.

SHC maintains the move will not impact any of its operations.

In a statement, an SHC spokesperson said in part, "We continue to provide the safest, highest quality care for our patients, and remain dedicated to pioneering research and effective clinical therapies to address this evolving situation. We are immensely proud of our community at Stanford Health Care, and we thank our employees for their tireless efforts and ongoing support during these challenging times."

The statement also acknowledged, "This is a difficult but necessary decision to sustain the long-term health of the organization so we can continue to provide critical services to the community."

ABC7 News also reached out to the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) about impacts to healthcare workers at SHC.

CRONA Vice President, Kathy Stormberg told ABC7 News, "We are concerned about ensuring that nurses, many of whom have become the sole earners for their families, maintain their income to care for themselves and their families; we are also concerned that the hospitals provide the support for permanent staff to ensure that nurses and other healthcare workers are ready and available to care for patients no matter what comes next in this unpredictable crisis."

Stormberg said CRONA is currently in discussions with Stanford and Lucile Packard about how reductions will impact nurses. Adding, "We do not have all those answers yet."

SEIU did not respond at the time this web story was published.

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