LEWISTON — Months after they furloughed hundreds of workers, St. Mary’s Health System and Central Maine Healthcare are bringing back employees.

CMHC furloughed 300 employees, or about 10% of its workforce, in early April. St. Mary’s furloughed 77 employees, or about 5% of its workforce, a few weeks later.

At the time, a CMHC spokeswoman said their furloughs were expected to last no more than 90 days; a St. Mary’s spokesman said their furloughs were expected to last 30 days.

CMHC, which owns Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Rumford and Bridgton hospitals and a number of medical practices, has since recalled about three-quarters of its 300 furloughed employees, according to spokeswoman Kate Carlisle. The rest are expected to return by mid-July.

“Callbacks are made weekly as we review our staffing needs and continue to ramp our services back up,” she said.

Carlisle said fewer than 10 of the furloughed employees have opted to leave their jobs permanently.

St. Mary’s spokesman Steve Costello said the health system, which owns St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston and a number of medical practices, has recalled 80% to 85% of its 77 furloughed employees. He said some returned before the planned 30 days while others aren’t likely to return until the beginning of July, which is more than 60 days.

“It just took longer to get back to having patients in the building than we planned,” he said. “The expectation was that we were going to start ramping back up, as far as the elective procedures, more quickly than we were able to because of the way COVID was being handled in the state.”

Like other health systems in Maine, CMHC and St. Mary’s both rescheduled elective procedures, surgeries and doctor’s appointments as COVID-19 took hold in Maine. That drop in work led to steep drops in revenue just as hospitals had to spend more money on protective equipment and other COVID-19-related purchases. Those procedures and appointments are now returning.


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