Healthcare lost 43K jobs in March, latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows

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More than 43,000 healthcare jobs were lost in March, according to the latest federal data. (Getty/Ca-ssis)

More than 43,000 healthcare jobs were lost in March, according to the latest federal data.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 701,000 in March, and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4% as a result of the effects of COVID-19 and efforts to contain it.

Employment in hospitality and leisure saw the steepest declines last month, with employment falling by about 459,000 jobs.

However, employment in healthcare and social assistance felt the pain with a total loss of about 61,000 jobs in March.

Healthcare employment, specifically, dropped by 43,000 with about 12,000 job losses from doctors' offices, about 17,000 job losses from dentists' offices and about 7,000 job losses from the offices of other healthcare practitioners.

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Physician practices across the country worry whether they can survive the cash crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A recent survey of primary care practices found 31% of respondents said they are running their offices without some employees and risk financial collapse as they are canceling face-to-face patient visits that generate the bulk of their revenue. They expressed helplessness with their situation.

Staffing outages due to illness are already hitting clinicians (20%), nursing staff (17%) and front desk support (13%), according to the survey.

In a bid to help support practices, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last month agreed to pay for virtual visits at the same rate as in-person visits while the coronavirus emergency remains in effect. CMS also agreed to pay physicians for patient visits that take place by telephone to help practices stay open by providing them with needed revenue.

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As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, a large number of insurers are also paying for telemedicine visits, and more are doing so. Doctors hope commercial insurance companies will also agree to pay for telephone visits.

Some health systems have also begun instituting furloughs including Trinity Health, Tenet Healthcare and Bon Secours.