Abbott cuts another 199 jobs at Maine COVID test-making site

As Abbott shaves down its COVID-related revenue forecasts, so too is the company whittling down its COVID test-making workforce.

For the second time this year, Abbott has filed a notice with Maine’s labor department—in keeping with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act—outlining plans to lay off about 200 employees from its diagnostics facility in the city of Westbrook, a suburb of Portland.

The 120,000-square-foot space was previously a retail distribution facility, but, as case counts skyrocketed in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Abbott enlisted a construction firm to turn it into a diagnostics manufacturing site that could ultimately enlist up to about 1,200 workers.

Since mid-2021, however, amid fluctuations in demand for COVID tests, the company has laid off hundreds of workers from the outpost. The most recent wave, as first reported by the Portland Press Herald this week and detailed in a WARN notice dated May 16, will see a total of 199 employees stationed at the site lose their jobs.

"Since the start of the pandemic, Abbott has invested in and scaled up production in multiple facilities in the U.S. to help meet the country’s COVID testing needs. Now that COVID has transitioned to a more endemic, seasonal type of respiratory virus we’re continuing to adjust our workforce to align with market conditions," Scott Stoffel, a spokesperson for Abbott, said in a statement sent to Fierce Medtech.

"We appreciate the contributions of all of our workers at this site during a time when the country desperately needed COVID testing," Stoffel continued. "Impacted employees have been offered severance and outplacement services and will have consideration for open positions within the company."

Even more of the Westbrook facility’s workers were laid off earlier this year. In a March 1 WARN notice, Abbott said 219 employees would be affected by the reduction in force.

WARN notices are only required ahead of layoffs affecting permanent employees, but Abbott confirmed to the Press Herald in early February that it was also laying off most of the temporary workers based in Westbrook. While the company didn’t specify how many employees that reduction would include, nor how many temp workers it had hired in total, a potential clue arrived in the form of another WARN notice dated Feb. 7 that had been issued through staffing agency Aerotek’s Portland office and heralded the layoffs of 234 Abbott workers.

This year’s cuts come well after the initial downsizing the medtech giant conducted at the site in the summer of 2021, as the COVID vaccines became widely available, driving down both case counts and diagnostic demand. That WARN notice arrived in early July of that year and announced the layoffs of 310 employees.

Additionally, around that time, local news reports suggested that about 100 more employees would be let go from another test-making facility in nearby Scarborough. Abbott confirmed at the time that cuts would also occur in Scarborough but declined to provide exact numbers.

The latest layoffs come about a month after Abbott reported that its first-quarter COVID test sales had underwhelmed its already conservative forecasts. For the first three months of the year, it took in $730 million in sales for the segment—a far cry from the $3.3 billion it had raked in during the same quarter last year.

Those plummeting sales sent the total revenues in Abbott’s diagnostics department down almost 50% year over year, while the entire company’s sales took an 18% hit. And, while Abbott is maintaining an optimistic outlook for its non-COVID-related revenues for the rest of the year, it did lower the forecasts in that specific department: It’s now expecting to take in just $1.5 billion from COVID tests for all of 2023, down from the $2 billion goal it set at the start of the year and miles away from the $7.7 billion haul it earned in 2022.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include a statement from Abbott.