Survey: Ala. hospitals lost millions after elective procedures cut

Updated: Jul. 3, 2020 at 1:27 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama hospitals lost about $739 million in revenue from March 13 to April 30, according to a survey from the Alabama Hospital Association.

Much of the revenue loss came from not being allowed to provide elective procedures, which was apart of the states initial stay at home order. During that same time period, hospitals spent about $101 million in COVID-19 preparation.

Elective procedures weren’t allowed to begin again until May.

“Our expenses have not decreased, in fact in most areas it has increased some so trending this expense forward to now you can imagine the financial drain it is placing on our hospitals,” said Alabama Hospital Association Executive Vice President Danne Howard.

Hospital officials say elective procedures provide a large portion of income for some hospitals and clinics.

Howard estimated most hospitals are doing 60 to 75 percent of the elective procedures they were doing before COVID-19. She said no one is back to 100 percent. Staffing, PPE, beds and testing continue to be issues.

Elmore Community Hospital Director of Operations Amanda Hannon said elective procedures at their facility are back at about 70 percent.

Independent hospitals were able to apply for that paycheck protection program and Elmore Community Hospital did receive money. However, Hannon said the hospital did not get as much federal money as some of the other hospitals because it didn’t qualify under the rural stimulus.

“So we’re, we’re struggling because of that,” Hannon said. “With that said we’ve made some smart decisions and we’ve been able to rise above it.”

To rise above it, Hannon said employees are working partial hours even though they’ve been able to bring most of them back. They are also being smart about their supplies.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do,” she explained.

The federal government provided some money to hospitals according to Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association.

“The federal money was helpful, but the federal money didn’t offset the cost,” Williamson said. “And certainly as COVID continues to increase, unfortunately, the cost will go up and loss revenue will increase. So I am concerned about our financial situation as we look into 2021.”

Rural Health Association Executive Director Ryan Kelly said hospitals are becoming more stable as patients return.

“They’re no longer concerned they’re about to have to close their doors,” Kelly said. “They’re still hurting but they’re not getting as many winds of we’re about to have to shut our doors if we don’t open back up like we had during the peak of the COVID shutdown.”

But the million dollar question on the long-lasting effects this will have on hospitals still remains.

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