In a development that could affect the lives of hundreds of people in the Bell Press circulation are – and cost untold tens of thousands of dollars – Mayo Clinic Health System announced last week that it would begin to furlough employees at the end of April 2020, thanks to the stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic is imposing on the healthcare operation.

Mayo Clinic Health System has workers at four facilities in the area, including a hospital/clinic at Barron and clinics at Chetek, Cameron and Rice Lake.

In a press release dated 12 noon Friday, April 10, Mayo announced that while it could promise full pay and benefits to its workforce through April 28, “temporary furloughs of some staff and salary reductions will be required after that time.”

The major reason for the reductions was the fact that Mayo had given up the largest share of its revenue stream – elective procedures.

“The decision to proactively postpone elective patient care was the right one,” the announcement said. “But it eliminated the majority of our revenue at the same time we are making critical investments to develop and expand testing, conduct research to stop the pandemic, and re-align our facilities and care teams to treat COVID-19 patients.”

Mayo Clinic Health System referred the News-Shield to a blog post that expands on the reasoning behind the decision.

It said the staff members “are doing extraordinary work leading in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (The) needs of our patients … will continue to be our North Star, and is essential in serving our patients now and into the next century.

“We have taken significant measures to protect our patients and staff in all of our communities during this time,” the blog post added. “We deferred most clinic visits and surgeries to reduce the risk of exposure to … patients and staff, and used this time to accelerate our capabilities to connect with patients in new ways using technology.”

Mayo Clinic Health System employees will continue to receive benefits during the furloughs, the blog post added.

“We recognize that in many locations, our organization is among the largest employers in the community, and changes to staffing have wide-reaching impacts,” the announcement said.

“By preserving jobs and benefits through temporary furloughs -- NOT layoffs -- we are staying true to our commitment to staff and the communities we serve.”