Golden Valley Health Centers, a safety net provider in Central Valley California, has laid off or fired about 25% of its 1,150 workers as patient visits plummet at its clinics in Modesto, elsewhere in free fall

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Golden Valley Health Centers has laid off and laid off about 25% of its roughly 1,150 employees due to a huge drop in the number of patients it treats as the coronavirus pandemic brings daily life to a halt.

The safety net health care provider has put around 20% of its employees on leave, which means they are off work without pay, in the hope that they will return to their jobs. About 5 percent of its employees have been made redundant. Golden valley said positions “at all levels, from senior management to clinic staff to support positions, have been affected” by the cuts.

But the decision and the way Golden Valley carried it out – including the lack of notice and not providing employees with severance pay or help maintaining their health insurance – drew criticism from some of the dismissed employees and Service Employees Union Internationale Local 521, who said he represents about 700 Golden Valley employees.

SEIU Local 521 President Alysia Bonner said in a statement Golden Valley should have sought help under the recent federal stimulus package that includes assistance to non-profit healthcare providers. profit to keep employees during the pandemic, and called on its board to reverse layoffs and seek federal help.

The ruthless and premature decision by Golden Valley Health Centers to forgo the COVID-19 assistance options available to nonprofit health organizations is dangerous and unacceptable, ”she said in the statement. (COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.)

Local 521 sent a letter Thursday to Golden Valley asking it to seek federal help so it can avoid layoffs and time off and copied local U.S. officials TJ Cox, Jim Costa and Josh Harder.

But Golden Valley said there was no guarantee it would receive the funding and now needed to make painful but necessary cuts, adding that it had spent hundreds of hours evaluating how and where to cut. expenses.

Golden Valley said it is doing everything it can to keep its doors open and continue to serve patients, both during and after the pandemic. Golden Valley said it and other health care providers are treating fewer patients because government officials tell people to stay home unless they are seriously ill and their treatment cannot be postponed. .

Golden Valley said it has virtually eliminated its dental office, optometry and most chiropractic services and has seen a 50% drop in doctor visits since Governor Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order on March 19.

The layoffs took effect immediately

Three Golden Valley employees – who each said they had worked for the healthcare provider for several years and asked not to be identified as it would hurt their chances of finding a new job – said the layoffs had taken place over the past two weeks and their last day of work was the same day they were told they were being made redundant.

They said their health insurance ended on Tuesday. They can continue their coverage through something called COBRA, but this requires them to pay the full cost of their insurance, including the portion that Golden Valley paid for.

“It was shocking,” a former employee said of the layoffs. “We were a bit slow (Golden Valley seeing fewer patients), but we didn’t expect to be laid off. We thought we were going to be put on leave like the other people.

“… They kind of kicked us on the sidewalk. We haven’t done anything wrong. We were just doing our job, and they took it away from us, especially during those times. The most important thing was medicare. Now we (the employee and her family) do not have health insurance. I have to look for health insurance.

Golden Valley said it understood employees were frustrated and stressed, but said it “had tried to extend coverage, but that was not allowed under the health plan,” the statement said. “We have provided employees with resource information regarding alternative health insurance coverage options and will offer assistance to facilitate the enrollment process. “

But when asked by The Bee why he couldn’t provide healthcare to his laid-off employees, Golden Valley said in a text message, “Our policy is not to turn anyone away, regardless of their ability to pay. So we would definitely treat them if they came to us. They would likely qualify for Medi-Cal or (our) declining fee schedule.

Golden Valley is what’s called a federally licensed health center, and it said nearly every other FQHC provider has laid off or fired employees during the pandemic, with many cuts deeper than those of Golden Valley.

Golden Valley said employees on leave will continue to receive benefits, including health care, until April 30 and are eligible for unemployment. Golden Valley said he hopes to bring them back within 60 days. He said dismissed employees can apply for open positions.

It operates more than 42 Manteca clinics and other facilities in Los Banos, including several in Modesto, providing medical, dental, pediatric and other care to the uninsured, the working poor, the homeless and others.

“These are unprecedented times,” Golden Valley chief executive officer Tony Weber said in a separate statement. “In order to ensure that we are able to meet the expected healthcare needs of our patients and survive the economic challenges presented by this COVID-19 situation, we have had to make some tough decisions. “

“There was no respect for their employees”

Yet the layoffs were like punches in the stomach for the three employees.

“I plan to look for a lawyer to see who would be willing to help me and a group of girls,” said an employee who said she worked for Golden Valley for more than a decade. “We want to make our history known. It’s pretty unfair what they did.

Another employee said the layoffs appeared subjective and arbitrary and that she would review her legal options. She added that the way Golden Valley has led them runs counter to its mission to provide high-quality care to underserved people while treating them with compassion and respect.

“There are a lot of professionals who went to work for Golden Valley who could have made more (money elsewhere) but chose to work there because of their mission,” she said. “But there was no respect for their employees.”

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Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness, and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He graduated from San José State University.


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