Mee Memorial Hospital in King City (Contributed)

KING CITY — Mee Memorial Hospital in King City has laid off 55 employees due to a decline in revenue from fewer patient visits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Significant decreases in patient volume — down by 59 percent in April — have reduced the hospital’s budget to make massive cuts, which paired with the 43 employees let go last July, bring the total layoffs to almost 100 personnel in less than a year.

Officials at Mee Memorial said they pursued all avenues of assistance available to it through the CARES Act and other congressional and federal actions, but a significant funding gap remained. The resulting decision by Mee Memorial leadership was to make cutbacks to preserve both essential and basic health care services for residents of South Monterey County now and in the future.

“These decisions are never made lightly,” said Rena Salamacha, interim CEO of Mee Memorial Healthcare System. “We must place patient care first, but we deeply regret the hardship on laid-off staff and their families.”

In addition to the 55 layoffs, the hospital has issued a hiring freeze for all positions not considered essential. Among the cutbacks are salary reductions, suspension of merit pay increases and temporary suspension of selected specialty services, including labor and delivery and cardiology.

“We’re concerned that patients may be neglecting their health needs out of fear of contracting or spreading Covid-19, and we want to make sure they know they have safe treatment and consulting options,” Salamacha said. “It’s important to keep following all public guidelines issued by the state and local authorities, but we remain an essential service here, providing both personal and telehealth services to the community.”

The hospital and its clinics in King City and Greenfield remain available for appointments and treatment, having taken recommended steps for patient and staff safety. The facilities have the capacity to safely provide a range of healthcare needs, whether in-person or remotely via telehealth.

The hospital also removed the hand-painted barriers that had blocked off all but one entrance. Staff members noted the removal was made because the public interpreted the barriers as signifying that the hospital was closed entirely.

The cutbacks were effective immediately when issued on April 30. They will not affect emergency room services, direct bedside nursing care or investments in PPE and life-saving equipment as needed for Covid-19 treatment.

Patients who need services currently suspended at Mee Memorial will be provided with referrals or additional information on request.

Telehealth sessions take place by phone or web video conference and can be arranged by calling 831-385-7100 for Mee Memorial Hospital or the nearby King City clinic, or 831-674-0112 for the Albert and Donna Oliveira Mee Memorial Clinic in Greenfield.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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