Hospitals facing financial woes amid COVID pandemic

A potential second wave of COVID-19 could be catastrophic for hospitals across the U.S. especially nonprofit hospitals that are already facing serious financial woes due to the pandemic.

“If we get another surge of COVID-19 in concert with a flu pandemic surge which in fact we see almost every year, the combination of those things can really be a strain on the hospital, especially if we have to cancel elective surgeries again, said Shereef Elnahal, President and CEO of University Hospital in Newark.

Elnahl says at the height of the pandemic 300 patients were being treated for COVID-19 at the hospital.

"We ended up discharging about 1,000 people successfully. We had at our worst about 10 people passing away per night at one point,” said Elnahl.

As they fought to save lives and treat an overflow of patients, the nonprofit hospital was also losing a significant amount of money, projecting a loss of about $75 million because of the pandemic.

"We were projecting we would run out of cash by July if we did not get financial assistance,” he said.

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University Hospital was forced to cancel elective surgeries and spend a lot of its money on purchasing PPE, new ventilators, and other equipment.

"All of that just in our fiscal year ending in June cost over $30 million so we have about another few months of that would completely deplete all the federal money we got,” said Elnahl.

According to the American Hospital Association by the end of 2020, hospitals across the nation will lose over $300 billion.

Aaron Wesolowski, AHA’s vice president, policy research, analytics, and strategy told Fox 5 News in a statement, “America’s hospitals and health systems are focused on battling this pandemic while continuing to provide care to their patients and communities. These challenges are exacerbated by the biggest financial crisis facing the hospital field in history, which we estimate to be at least $323 billion in losses this year alone, due to lost revenue from canceled or postponed services and costs associated with treating COVID patients. This financial crisis is a serious obstacle to keeping the doors open for many hospitals, including those that serve a high number of Medicare and Medicaid patients. While we appreciate the support from the Administration and Congress, we need further help to stay afloat to continue our mission of caring for patients and communities.”

A second surge of COVID-19 this fall and winter could be catastrophic for nonprofit hospitals that serve the most vulnerable patient and provide treatment regardless of insurance coverage.

“We are an absolute safety net for public health in this community, so it would really be a public health disaster if University Hospital were to close,” said Elnahl.

University Hospital did receive state and federal aid, which helped bail them out.

Elnahal says they are preparing as best they can to continue operations even if there is a second wave, but if things get bad he says they will once again need would really need financial assistance in order to keep the doors open.