ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) -- More than 200 healthcare workers at Palomar Health have temporarily been laid off amid the coronavirus surge. This comes just a week after the Escondido hospital was selected to become San Diego County's emergency field hospital.
Healthcare workers tell 10News that the situation is nothing short of intense.
"We deal with life and death on a regular basis," Jan France said. France is a 30-year Registered Nurse at Palomar Health's ICU.
She said it breaks her heart that her employer announced a 21-day temporary layoff of 221 people who are not bedside care employees. As of April 8, 2020, many of her co-workers are without jobs, salaries, and benefits.
This news comes just one week after Palomar Health President & CEO, Diane Hansen, announced that the medical center would become the region's FEMA field hospital.
"How fitting that the 10th and 11th floors can now be used to meet a more critical need within the community?" Hansen said at last weekend's press event.
The plan is to add 250 beds and staff from Palomar Health to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. The fact that the hospital is adding services, but laying off employees does not make sense to France.
She believes her colleagues in the O.R. and other specialized units can easily be cross-trained to assist during the surge.
"If I'm in an isolation room in my full isolation gear, I need nurses to bring me medications and supplies, so they can be helpful in that aspect," France said.
In a statement to 10News, Palomar Health explained that the layoffs come after the national and local directives to suspend all non-emergency services starting March 18, 2020. Because of that, the hospital experienced a "significant loss in revenue."
In the statement, Hansen said, "Issuing temporary layoffs was not an easy decision and was only done after much consideration and many other cost saving measures. The health and wellbeing of all our employees is important to us and we expect to bring our Palomar Health family back to work as quickly as possible."
France hopes Palomar Health reconsiders.
"The message throughout this pandemic is, 'Together we'll get through this,' and that is certainly not the message that Palomar is sending to the employees," France said.
Healthcare workers are planning a protest at the Escondido hospital Monday morning. After the 21 days, Palomar Health said they would reassess the situation. Should there be a sudden surge, the hospital said they would not hesitate to bring back employees sooner.