DULUTH (AP) -- Essentia Health says it is laying off 900 employees as the coronavirus pandemic cuts into the business.

Essentia Health CEO David Herman said Thursday that the recent cost-reduction measures the Duluth-based health care system has taken ``are not sufficient to preserve our mission and the health of the organization.''

“This has prompted our leadership team to carefully consider the most difficult decision we’ve faced since I joined Essentia five years ago and move forward with permanent layoffs.”

"About 900 colleagues — about 6% of our workforce — will be affected by the layoffs. Essentia will continue to provide health insurance for noncontract employees for the next three months. Staff covered by collective bargaining agreements have other protections, including the right of recall. Additionally, there are about 850 Essentia colleagues on administrative leave with benefits through July 31, with the intention of being called back to work as needed."

Minnesota hospitals are dealing with a steep drop in business while preparing for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients. Routine visits have been postponed and elective surgeries were not allowed until recently.

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