By Lisa Young
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Delta County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) has begun a series of preliminary steps to keep the hospital sustainable.
The difficult changes follow closely behind Montrose and Glenwood Springs which have reduced hospital staff to offset the mounting losses due to the pandemic. Montrose Memorial Hospital recently laid off 19 employees and Valley View Hospital in Glenwood downsized staff by 10%.
“DCMH is doing our best to maintain the staff that we have by avoiding layoffs and finding other areas to remedy the loss in revenue,” said Matt Heyn, CEO for DCMH. “Our human resources are the most important asset that we have. As the largest employer in Delta County, we don’t take lightly the people and lives that depend on us.”
Despite the economic downturn, the hospital continues to hire staff for crucial jobs.
“DCMH is analyzing every open position that we have here at our hospital and clinics. We are only rehiring vacant, essential positions. There have been no newly-created positions,” said Jacque Davis, marketing director.
However, because of COVID-19 revenue losses, the hospital has initiated measures to help contain and control costs. Under Heyn, the hospital will decrease overtime, stop the use of traveling/contract labor, make adjustments to surgical scheduling for more efficiency, and continue to work to qualify for the 340b prescription program.
In one big change, the hospital will not be matching the 2019 employee 403b retirement contributions, hoping to save roughly $600,000. The hospital will also utilize “low census” staffing, sending home staff when patient levels are low.
According to Davis, the American Hospital Association estimates that hospitals across the country will lose a collective $202.6 billion from March 1 to June 30 due to a sharp revenue decline coupled with higher costs of labor, supplies and treatment of COVID-19 patients. DCMH has experienced its own losses.
In March net patient revenue for the hospital was down 20% from the budget, resulting in a $1.8 million loss, and in April it was down 46%, resulting in a $2.8 million loss. DCMH received $1.5 million in April and 4.8 million in May from Health and Human Services (HHS) by way of stimulus money that could be used to offset those losses.
“The monies can be used for healthcare-related expenses due in areas of prevention, preparation, response and loss of revenue due to COVID-19,” Davis said.
The rural hospital also hopes to receive an accelerated payment, a loan by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which if granted have to be paid off in a year.
“The hospital has one year to pay it off at 0% interest and 120 days from the time it is received to start paying off the loan. Currently, CMS is recalculating amounts and re-evaluating the program. There is no guarantee that this loan from Medicare will be awarded. Again, we haven’t received it yet, but it is in response to the COVID-19 crisis and is meant to help hospitals and to give them time to recover,” Davis added.
“Like most other healthcare systems we noticed almost immediately that patients were staying away from doctors’ offices,” said Heyn. “Many people were also forced to postpone or cancel non-urgent surgeries during March and April which resulted in financial losses for the hospital.”
As the recovery process begins, Heyn says he wants to remind patients that DCMH and its clinics still remain safe, reliable places for community members to receive health care.
“Delta County Memorial Hospital has been proactive in reaching out to local and state officials to help with the financial ramifications from the pandemic. The hospital is also pursuing grants and is actively looking and utilizing the resources available to us,” Davis added.
Heading into uncharted territory, Heyn and hospital leaders are hoping for the best in difficult times while still providing critical services to the community.
“We are still facing a lot of unknowns. Although we haven’t yet recovered from the pandemic, and it looks like that is still a ways off, we are working hard every day to keep our hospital viable. Our concern remains with the health, safety and well-being of our staff, and we will continue to keep that focus,” said Heyn.