As construction continues on Bronson Healthcare Group’s $22 million new hospital in South Haven, Bronson officials announced several hundred layoffs of non-clinic workers due to the reduction in revenues caused by the Covid-10 pandemic. To deal with patients affected with the virus, Bronson, like many hospitals has had to cut back on elective surgeries and procedures.

SOUTH HAVEN — While Bronson Healthcare System moves forward on construction of its new $22 million hospital in South Haven, the regional healthcare group has announced it will need to make a number of temporary budget cuts.

In a news release, Bronson officials stated that “like other health systems across the nation, Bronson has seen its expenses rise significantly due to preparations and purchases related to COVID-19. At the same time, the health system is experiencing losses in revenue due to the suspension of elective surgeries and procedures, temporary closings of some services, as well as reduced diagnostic tests, office visits and emergency department visits as patients remain at home.”

In an interview with WWMT-TV Tuesday evening, Bronson President and CEO Bill Manns said the hospital’s monthly revenue was down 50 percent, which has forced them to set up a recovery plan to help recoup financial losses.

To deal with the downturn in revenue amid the pandemic, Bronson is making the following cutbacks:

Due to the work slowdown, furloughs will be implemented over the next few weeks for several hundred mostly non-clinical employees. The news release did not specify which non-clinical workers would be furloughed and hospital officials could not be reached for further comment on Wednesday. The furloughs are expected to be for 16 weeks, however, some employees may be called back sooner as their areas ramp back up.

In the WWMT-TV interview with Manns, he stated, “We are continuing their health benefits up until this point. We have been matching their PTO (paid time off) which is huge. We’ve been providing free child care. This really is a furlough and we are looking forward to bringing those employees back,” Other cutbacks follow:

Manns will take a 25-percent reduction in salary through Aug. 15. Bronson executives and leaders will also see salary reductions for the same time period. Bronson Medical Group providers will also see their pay reduced.

Contributions to employee retirement accounts and 403b/401k matches are being suspended for the remainder of the year. Employees can still make personal contributions, however.

“We are working to adapt to continuing COVID-19 care while still safely serving all of our patients,” Manns said in the release. “We are starting to ramp up surgeries and other procedures within the scope of the governor’s order with a goal of having our hospitals back to 100 percent by September and our practices, many of which have been doing video visits, at 100 percent by August. If we can do it sooner, we will. However, the availability of enough PPE to ensure the safety of our staff and patients in all settings continues to be a limiting factor.”

Bronson is pursuing opportunities for financial reimbursement and grants, including FEMA reimbursement, CARES Act relief grants and other state and federal relief opportunities. However, the timing of these is unpredictable, company officials indicated.

Predictive models now seem to indicate Southwest Michigan may experience ongoing community spread of COVID-19 into the fall rather than an overwhelming surge this spring, assuming responsible social distancing continues after the governor’s order expires.

Bronson officials say they are prepared for a surge, but are hoping for the best. They said they appreciate how people are providing financial and supply donations and doing their part to social distance and flatten of the curve.

“The efforts have contributed to Bronson having a manageable number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 along with adequate staffing and supply levels to meet their needs at this time,” the Bronson news release stated.

But because of the revenue that has been lost to the reduction in services normally offered, Bronson had to make some cutbacks.

Despite the cutbacks, Bronson officials say the healthcare group will continue to proceed with major projects including seven offices for Bronson Primary Care Partners, which will open on July 1; the new lab at Bronson Methodist Hospital opening in late July; and the Bronson Cancer Pavilion in Kalamazoo and the new Bronson South Haven Hospital, which are both slated to open in early 2021.