COVID-19’s Economic Effect on The Healthcare Industry

At a time when the nation is looking to the healthcare industry for leadership and service, healthcare workers are being laid off.

The healthcare industry is typically one of the fastest-growing industries, with an average of 8,500 jobs being created every month. However, in March 2020, only 200 jobs were created. The industry saw its largest decline in the last three decades, with 43,000 jobs cut, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The healthcare system in the United States is for-profit. When services are cut, as they have been during the COVID-19 pandemic, income streams are lost. With the sudden loss of revenue, expenses are slashed. Healthcare workers are at the top of that list.

In preparation for a COVID-19 induced crisis, all non-emergency procedures and appointments have been postponed, resulting in a 30% drop in patients nationwide and creating a loss of revenue as high as 50% in some practices. Private hiring firms and hospital operators are announcing layoffs and pay cuts. Healthcare workers at small, rural hospitals are being laid off, reassigned, or told their contracts are canceled altogether. Smaller practices are being forced to temporarily close their doors, some permanently.

In all of this chaos, COVID-19 continues its rampage. The places hardest hit, such as New Jersey, New York, and San Francisco, are scrambling to hire staff. Workers are calling in sick, as a preventative measure, while others are sent home because they have contracted the virus. Some furloughed surgeons are able to use their skills to assist, by intubating COVID-19 patients for ventilators. Other laid-off healthcare workers are able to deploy their services to these areas as well. To fill the vacancies, nurses are being offered as much as $6,000 a week in some of these hospitals.

Yet, even with a nationwide layoff, healthcare workers are feeling reluctant about job seeking. Doctors and nurses fear contracting the virus and putting their family at risk while many healthcare workers in every aspect of service are sheltering in place. Those that are seeking jobs are hesitant because their children are at home and they are responsible for their education.

The healthcare workers that do leave their homes to serve where COVID-19 has peaked face backlash from their community members, as they are called ‘coward’ and chastised for leaving their hometowns vulnerable when COVID-19 hits.

One physician told National Public Radio, “In medicine, we think we’re relatively immune from the economy. People are always going to get sick. People are always going to need doctors.”

However, the entire nation is shut down in response to COVID-19. Dentists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and emergency room doctors have suddenly found themselves unemployed. Anyone not deemed “essential” has been told to go home and shelter in place, in every industry. Even amongst the healthcare industry, where the need is the highest, only essential employees are working, those doctors and nurses on the frontlines. This has been mandated as well, but by the economy not by the government.