UW Medicine estimates $500 million loss by end of summer due to pandemic

SEATTLE — Major cuts are coming to UW Medicine.

The hospital system reported it expects to lose more than $500 million by the end of summer.

Hospitals across the country have been so focused on fighting the coronavirus, but it's clear that's not where they make their money. Hospitals are losing money because patients aren't coming in and are canceling procedures. Additionally, treating COVID-19 patients is expensive.

To cut costs, the front line workers who courageously and tirelessly battled the virus are facing threats to their jobs.

“They're nervous; they're scared,” said Jane Hopkins, the executive vice president of SEIU 1199NW.

SEIU 1199 NW represents about 3,500 workers at UW Medicine.

Hopkins said the union was only told 15 minutes before the press release went out. Because of that, SEIU 1199NW will be sending a cease -and -desist letter to UW Medicine.

“We want to make sure it's done in a thoughtful way. They're not just thinking about the bottom line of the money, thinking about what it means to the workers,” said Hopkins.

UW Medicine didn’t give specifics on the cuts, only stating they would include “reductions in the salaries for senior leaders, staff furloughs, and tight controls on spending."

The cuts will happen across the UW Medicine system, which includes its three hospitals, clinics, physician practice plan, Airlift Northwest, the UW School of Medicine, and Valley Medical Center.

The Washington State Nurses Association, which represents 2,400 registered nurses at UW’s Montlake and Northwest hospitals, is also demanding a voice in the process.

“Our registered nurses at UW Medical Center have been hard at work, 24/7 during this COVID crisis putting their own lives on the line and working to take care of our patients,” said Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives Anne Tan Piazza, of the WSDA. “We as the union representing RNs have not received officials notification from UW with regard to furlough and potential impact for our members. We are demanding to bargain any impact of the program on our members.”

Hospitals across the country are facing the loss of revenue. Last week, MultiCare Health Systems, which includes eight hospitals, such as Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, said it is facing a budget shortfall of $160 million and would furlough 6,000 employees.

“The real reason we're doing it is to save people's jobs,” said Dr. David Carlson with MultiCare. “This is a way to be able to manage the cost of our businesses until things return to the new normal.

Just three weeks ago, it was a heroes' reception for the staff at Harborview.

Hopkins wants to make sure UW doesn't forget who has been on the front lines.

“And you know the employers are going to need them back very soon. Once they open up the OR’s, start getting high volumes, these members are going to be needed. So you need to make sure they are treated with respect while they’re sitting on the sidelines,” Hopkins added.

KIRO 7 also reached out to the Washington State Hospital Association.

In a statement, CEO Cassie Sauer said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous financial strain on the entire health care system. Between the cancellation of non-urgent procedures and the increased costs associated with the COVID-19 response, the American Hospital Association estimates that the total losses to our nation’s hospitals and health systems will top $200 billion by the end of June. We want to allow hospitals to fully reopen so we can take care of Washingtonians’ health needs and put our people back to work. We thank UW Medicine for all their work responding to this pandemic and for their work putting patients first.”