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Lee Health CEO says care won’t suffer as system struggles financially

Lee Health said it’s in deeper financial trouble than first reported, but its CEO has promised the quality of health care won’t suffer.

The hospital system is cutting labor costs with buyout programs for employees and won’t rule out additional cuts.

CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci said that despite the system’s financial troubles, those who depend on them won’t see their care compromised.

His message to employees who fear job cuts due to a projected $50 million to $70 million loss this year?

“What I want to say is that we are going to do everything we can to preserve every job here at Lee Health, and the important thing for us is to remember is that we’ve been here for over 100 years and we are going to be here for the next 100 years.”

The heavy losses over the past couple of months are due to the coronavirus, with many people not coming into the ER or showing up for general health care procedures.

That loss of money led Lee Health to offer employees a voluntary exit plan or a summer sabbatical, but if not enough people take part in either of those, it isn’t out of the question that more could be let go.

“There’s no guarantee as to what the future may hold,” Antonucci said.

The CEO said this week that with the reopening of the economy, Lee Health is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“I think it’s just natural to expect that,” he said. “So we are just going to have to watch that very closely.”

Does he expect a huge influx of cases?

“I think that the community will respond as it did early on in the pandemic when we had the stay-at-home order. People paid attention to that and I think they will all again in the future,” he said.

Antonucci would not say how much money Lee Health is trying to save by asking employees to voluntarily leave.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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