Cancelations of hospital and clinic appointments because of COVID-19 fears are hitting rural hospitals hard.
Last week, St. Luke Hospital in Marion saw decreases in several departments. Visits to the therapy department were down 28%, laboratory tests were down 40%, and clinic visits and radiology tests were each down 30%, CEO Jeremy Ensey said.
“This week is looking similar,” he said.
Although he hopes things will turn around, the numbers look grim if they don’t.
“For April, we are projecting a $1 million decrease in revenue,” Ensey said. “We are able to withstand a storm, but if this continues into the summer, I am seriously concerned about our future and the future of other rural hospitals.”
“We’ve done well enough this is not going to cripple us,” said hospital spokesman Roger Schroeder.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Centers for Disease Control regulations no longer permit rural hospitals to perform elective procedures, so to keep rural hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, he said.
“If hospitals fail because they no longer have the revenue to pay staff and stay open, this only compounds the situation they are trying to prevent, as there will be even fewer hospital beds available to care for patients,” Ensey said.
Ensey said not many rural hospitals can function without conducting tests. Revenue lost from laboratory tests that were canceled will never be regained.
“I would expect to see many hospitals close if this continues into the summer,” he said.
Although the COVID-19 outbreak has created a need for additional ventilators nationally, postponing procedures is not freeing up ventilators or opening up beds, Ensey said.
Mark Rooker, CEO of Hillsboro Community Hospital, could not be reached for comment.