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Hundreds of Thomas Health system employees will be furloughed starting on Sunday.

“Less than 500” employees across the Thomas Health network will be affected by the move, according to a Friday news release from Thomas Health.

The release says the furloughs are in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as Thomas Health has suspended elective and non-emergency surgeries, outpatient procedures and tests to help with response efforts.

“While the majority of our workforce will continue to work full-time, we have had to take the difficult step in temporarily furloughing workers who do not have positions directly related to our most critical needs,” Thomas Health CEO Dan Lauffer said in the release.

“This was a very painful decision to make, and I recognize the tremendous sacrifices that staff are making in this time of uncertainty. Given these extraordinary circumstances, this was an action that we had to take to ensure long-term viability of our health system, for our workforce at large and for the communities we serve.”

When asked how long workers will be furloughed, Eriel Scott, the marketing and public relations manager for Thomas Health, said “a timetable has not been set at this moment.”

“We are hopeful that it will be very soon after the stay-at-home order is lifted. It is very possible for some to come back in advance of others,” Scott said.

Thomas Health system filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 10.

The nonprofit Thomas Health system includes Thomas Memorial Hospital, in South Charleston, Saint Francis Hospital, in Charleston, and THS Physician Partners Inc. According to Scott, the positions furloughed were from throughout the organization.