LAWRENCE — Lawrence General Hospital is placing 160 employees on a four-week furlough effective Monday as a cost-saving measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials announced. 

Hospital management stressed this is "a furlough, rather than a layoff."

"The majority of the furloughed employees are non-clinical and will remain on active status with the expectation of returning to work when the furlough ends," according to the LGH statement emailed to The Eagle-Tribune.

Lawrence General has about 2,000 employees, a hospital spokesperson said.

The hospital, per order of Gov. Charlie Baker, canceled all elective surgeries effective March 16. However, canceling elective procedures and "ramping up staff, supplies and equipment for the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a 40 percent decline in patient volume and income, and increases in costs," according to the statement. 

Prior to COVID-19, Lawrence General said it had "reduced the size of its senior management team, held vacant positions open unless they were critical to fill, and deferred all discretionary spending wherever possible." 

"This temporary furlough is part of the hospital's ongoing effort to operate in a financially sustainable way," according to the statement. 

In a letter sent to employees, management said the furlough situation will be reassessed after the initial four weeks and decisions made "whether to recall the affected staff, extend the furlough, or perhaps adopt longer term measures." 

During the furlough, employees will exhaust their paid time off before becoming eligible for unemployment. The furloughed employees will continue receiving health and dental insurance benefits, according to the letter. 

The hospital's cafeteria is closing down, also effective Monday. A cafe with grab-and-go food and coffee will be open. 

"These are trying times, but we are a strong organization and we will continue to serve our patients through this pandemic," LGH President and CEO Deb Wilson wrote in the letter to employees. 

In the media statement Wilson said, "Lawrence General nursing and medical staff, emergency, intensive care and management are intensely focused and dedicated to meeting the community's medical needs." 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill. 

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