MAINE, USA — Across the state, hospitals have had to pivot, not only when it comes to treating COVID-19 patients, but also in limiting other services. The result: a drastic drop in revenue.
The elective side of the hospital business is completely shut down during this time of the pandemic. That's a problem because elective procedures are huge moneymakers for hospitals.
At some of the state's smaller hospitals, some of which were already struggling before the virus, it could be a devastating blow.
Maine Hospital Association President Steven Michaud says the state's hospitals are losing an estimated $250 million or more every month.
"We're trying to keep the doors open and the lights on to address this obvious crisis and pay our employees, but we're getting killed financially," says Michaud.
Back in mid-march, when Governor Mills declared a civil state of emergency, hospitals were directed to stop performing elective procedures in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"Our patient volume is significantly down," says Penobscot Valley Hospital CEO Crystal Landry.
Landry says her hospital is operating at 50% below its normal volume. "It's not just in critical care, it's imaging, it's lab testing, everything is about down 50% from what we'd typically see in the month of April."
Landry says that means the hospital is bringing in just half the money it typically does this time of year.
It's been a big financial hit for a hospital that was struggling long before COVID-19. "We are a hospital that is working under a chapter 11 bankruptcy process, we did file over a year ago," says Landry.
Penobscot Valley isn't the only small hospital that's struggling. MDI Hospital says its revenue from treating patients is down anywhere from 50-60%.
With drastic losses like that, hospitals are looking for federal aid.
Landry says, "We need to have access to good solid funding. We're anxiously awaiting additional distributions under the CARES Act. We need the funding."
Without it, Michaud and Landry say the future of rural health in Maine looks bleak.
"Without very substantial and continuous federal help, we're going to see some very unfortunate things happen without something changing," says Michaud.
Landry says Maine's rural hospitals are important because they're often one of the biggest employers in the region they serve and furthermore, of course, they serve to protect the health of their communities.
"Rural towns and rural communities need access to care and that's what critical access hospitals provide," says Landry.
Michaud says hospitals are working around the clock to determine what reopening looks like. However, he says it may be weeks before that process begins and it will certainly be something that happens slowly and gradually.
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