The state’s hospitals are seeing a record decline in revenues despite serving a record number of patients. The Illinois Health and Hospital Association estimates that hospitals statewide could now be losing about $1.4 billion a month. The total reflects the additional revenue hospitals are missing due to cancelled elective surgeries and in-patient visits due to COVID-19.
Dr. Scott Boston, President and CEO of Passavant Area Hospital says that the hospital is seeing a sharp decline in patients in portions of the hospital. “It’s definitely effecting us. It’s a very real concern. We’re experiencing about a 40% decrease in our volume of patients in the Emergency Department. We’re seeing about 75% fewer patients in our operating rooms and procedure areas. This is partially because we have had said no elective or postpone-able procedures at this time. We are trying to protect our colleagues and our patients. Our in-patient admissions at the hospital are down by a little over 30%.”
Boston says that Medicare’s Advanced Payment Program has provided a loan to the hospital. The no interest loan will be paid back to Medicare over the next 6 months as the hospital cares for Medicare patients. He says other financial help may be coming. “We did get some federal stimulus money. We got about $1 million at Passavant and Memorial Health System received in total about $23 million. It’s actually a grant, so it will benefit our cash flow. We are also going to be able to take advantage of a couple other processes. We can delay paying our FICA – our payroll taxes – for one year. We still have to pay them, but we can delay that payment. Again, that helps our cash flow. We are also hoping and believe that the federal government through FEMA will be providing some financial services to us at the end of this pandemic. Once we get through to the other side of it, we anticipate that we may get some benefits through FEMA.”
Boston says that the hospital has asked workers to take time off from the hospital. “With our loss in revenue, it’s very difficult to balance the books and make our finances stable. We are asking colleagues to take time off, either voluntarily or we are actually doing some mandated time off. These colleagues are not being laid off. They are still our employees, but we are asking them to take time off to keep them off of our payroll right now. Nobody is being laid off. Nobody is losing their job, but we are mandating some time off for some of our employees.”
Boston says that the employees aren’t losing any benefits and that their benefits are being preserved during the mandatory times off. He says that the hospital is still utilizing its employee redeployment program to keep as many on staff working as much as possible.
Boston says that things won’t be the same on the other side of the pandemic at the hospital. “We do have teams in place that are trying to analyze this and take a look at what will happen for the future. I think it would be unrealistic to anticipate that we are going to return to the old ‘normal.’ There will be a new ‘normal’ to understand what services we can provide, what services we can provide well and stay financially sustainable will all certainly be impacted. I don’t know if I am at a point where I can give specific details on what that will look like, but there are areas, even while we are still in the middle of this crisis, where we are making plans on what things are going to look like in the future.”
Boston anticipates that once the country reaches the other side of the pandemic that a phase-in effect will occur with elective surgeries and regular business. He says that hospital staff and Memorial Health Systems will continue to look at patients’ needs on a case-by-case basis on surgery schedules and other programs when that time comes.