Dr. August Valenti, Maine Medical Center’s epidemiologist, walks on his rounds last month at the Portland hospital. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald

Forced to postpone elective surgeries and other medical mainstays in order to deal with the ever-increasing number of COVID-19 cases, hospitals in Maine are getting clobbered financially.

Based on a survey of its members, the Maine Hospital Association said Wednesday that state hospitals are looking at a potential loss of half their normal revenue — about $250 million a month in all.

“This is shocking and unlike anything we have ever seen,” said Jeff Austin, the association’s vice president for government affairs and communication.

That loss doesn’t even look at the extra costs hospitals are incurring as they gear up for an expected rise in the number of patients ill because of the pandemic that has shuttered many businesses and schools.

Hospital officials hope, though, that the $117 billion included for hospitals in last week’s emergency legislation in Congress will ultimately provide some relief for their bottom line.

One immediate effect of the financial hit is that hospitals across the state are beginning to eye ways they can save money while simultaneously devote everything necessary to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

Kate Carlisle, a spokeswoman for Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston, said Wednesday that there “are definitely financial and business implications of this outbreak.”

“Like every health system in the state of Maine and across the country, CMH has seen its patient volumes decline as we have rescheduled elective surgeries, procedures, and clinic visits,” she said.

John Porter, spokesman for MaineHealth, the largest health care organization in Maine, said hospitals are losing revenue from some traditional services but coping nonetheless.

He said Maine Healthcare is “a very financially stable organization” with a healthy reserve fund.

“We’ll be fine,” Porter said.

At CMH, Carlisle said hospital overseers have taken a number of steps, from redeploying staff to deferring executive compensation by 10%.

It has also launched “a voluntary furlough plan which we think will last no longer than 90 days” that would allow some workers to keep their health insurance, apply for unemployment and return to work when the situation begins to return to normal, Carlisle said.

Porter said Maine Healthcare has sent some people home but is still paying them as it examines which of them can be redeployed to other jobs they possess the skills for.

Austin said many businesses are seeing sharp drops in revenue because of the COVID-19-driven shutdowns, “but our members have to stay open and have to address” the health crisis, as well as other medical necessities from strokes to emergency care.

“Staying open while revenue plummets is very difficult,” he said.

A study released last week by Stata Decision Technology said hospitals are likely to lose as much as $8,000 per case on treatment of COVID-19 patients, adding to financial woes related to ceasing elective procedures that typically make enough money for institutions to cover the cost of unprofitable cases.

Austin said federal aid approved last week, along with some programmatic changes and a lump-sum payment, will help. But the impact of the federal moves is not yet known in Maine.

“There are some loan programs in there as well,” Austin said, “but we don’t think many Maine hospitals are eligible.”

“We’ve reached out to the state for some modest financial help,” he added. “They are considering the request.”

Area hospitals and their parent organizations are:

Central Maine Healthcare
— Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston
— Bridgton Hospital
— Rumford Hospital

MaineHealth
— Maine Medical Center in Portland
— Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway
— Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington
— Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland

Covenant Health
— St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston
— St. Joseph Healthcare in Bangor

 

 

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