By Steve Large

PLACERVILLE (CBS13) — As hospitals across the state ramp up for a projected coronavirus surge of patients, many hospitals are simultaneously being forced to reduce employee hours because scheduled appointments are being put on hold during the crisis.

It may seem counterintuitive in a health crisis like this, but at some hospitals that have not seen the surge yet, it’s actually slow right now.

For Marshall Medical Center medical assistant Caroline Hicks, her typical five-day workweek, is now down to only one or two.

“Starting this week I’m only supposed to be working eight hours,” Hicks said. “We’ve had to postpone a lot of elective surgeries at the hospital.”

The 18-year veteran of the hospital is one of many employees who have had their hours reduced.

“On Friday I just applied for unemployment,” Hicks said. “We’re able to compensate and make up for those hours.”

As California’s governor calls on retired healthcare professionals to join the ranks of the profession in anticipation of a coronavirus surge, Hicks hours have been cut to coincide with everyday procedures being canceled and postponed, leaving a lull in the hospital’s workforce needs.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Response: Questions Remain On How California Health Corps Will Operate

“With the reduction of scheduled elective surgeries, volume is down for outpatient,” Marshall Medical Center Human Resources Vice President Scott Comer said. “Even the in-patient, people are not having hip replacement surgeries or things that can be delayed.”

A Health and Human Services Inspector General report showed across the U.S., in response to the COVID-19 crisis, hospitals’ primary care volume is down.

Marshall Medical Center has set up a labor pool for employees who’ve had reduced hours. Workers can now sign up for other jobs emerging within the hospital, like screening patients and employees for their temperature as they enter the hospital building.

“We do have the option to do that, so that’s always good,” Hicks said.

Comer said Marshall Medical Center will not resort to layoffs or furloughs through this COVID-19 crisis. The hospital currently does not have a single patient who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

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