A complete city celebrated in 2020 when, early within the coronavirus pandemic, Thomasville Regional Medical Heart opened, providing state-of-the-art drugs that was beforehand unavailable in a poor, remoted a part of Alabama. The timing for the ribbon-cutting appeared excellent: New therapy choices can be accessible in an underserved space simply as a worldwide well being disaster was unfolding.
In the long run, that very same timing stands out as the cause for the hospital’s undoing.
Now deep within the purple two years into the pandemic, the 29-bed, $40 million hospital with a hovering, sun-drenched foyer and 110 workers is amongst three medical facilities in america that say they’re lacking out on hundreds of thousands in federal pandemic reduction cash as a result of the amenities are so new they lack full monetary statements from earlier than the disaster to show how a lot it price them.
In Thomasville, situated in timber nation about 95 miles north of the Gulf Coast port of Cell, hospital officers have labored greater than a 12 months to persuade federal officers they need to have gotten $8.2 million via the CARES Act, not simply the $1 million they obtained. With a complete debt of $35 million, the search will get extra pressing every day, stated Curtis James, the chief government officer.
“No hospital can maintain itself with out getting the CARES Act cash that everyone else received,” James stated.
Workers are attempting to save cash by slicing again on provides however residents together with Judy Hutto are frightened concerning the hospital’s future. Hutto drove there not too long ago for assessments from her dwelling 15 miles out within the nation.
“The world wants it,” she stated. “It’s a pleasant hospital.”
CEO Barry Beus is also attempting to plug a niche at Rock Regional Hospital, situated south of Wichita in Derby, Kansas. The hospital is due as a lot as $15.8 million, officers stated, however as a result of it solely opened in April 2019 and lacks full pre-pandemic monetary statements, it has obtained just a bit greater than $985,000.
The one factor that’s saved the ability from monetary smash to date is the cooperation of medical doctors, contractors and distributors who haven’t pushed for funds, he stated. “If we lose them, we lose the hospital,” stated Beus.
Three Crosses Regional Hospital opened in 2020 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and piled up a staggering $16.8 million in losses in simply three quarters whereas receiving solely $28,000 in support, stated Landon Fulmer, a Washington lobbyist working with all three hospitals to acquire extra funding. Every facility is being penalized for being new despite the fact that they supplied the identical expensive COVID-19 care as different medical facilities and misplaced income from different procedures together with elective surgical procedures, he stated.
“It actually is kind of a wierd scenario in a method, one which shouldn’t have occurred,” Fulmer stated.
With about 420,000 well being care suppliers nationwide already receiving help from a $178 billion pot, the federal government isn’t masking 100% of losses for anybody, stated Chris Lundquist, a spokesman for the U.S. Well being Sources and Companies Administration, which is overseeing this system.
“HRSA has strived to offer as a lot assist as doable to as many hospitals as doable throughout the limits of the regulation and funding,” he stated. The company stated it used proxy monetary info for hospitals that opened in 2019 or 2020 to create an equitable cost system.
“They’ve all obtained funding,” stated Lundquist.
Whereas just about all the help cash is spoken for, Lundquist stated hospitals searching for extra support can undergo an appeals course of. Hospitals can also search a supplemental appropriation or funding within the upcoming fiscal years, he stated. All three of the hospitals say they deserve extra.
Officers in Thomasville are attempting to leverage congressional affect. Mayor Sheldon Day has made a number of journeys to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of the state’s congressional delegation and well being officers, and the president of the Alabama Hospital Affiliation, Dr. Don Williamson, has contacted the White Home searching for assist.
“They’ve been assured they’re going to be taken care of. However the reality is, once you’re coping with authorities entities, you don’t have the cash till you could have the cash,” stated Williamson.
Positioned in southwest Alabama, Thomasville lies inside an impoverished space referred to as the Black Belt. About 70% of Black Belt residents qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and well being care has been restricted for generations.
The final hospital shut down in Thomasville greater than a decade in the past, leaving solely hospitals that provide fewer providers within the surrounding area. Officers labored for years to safe a brand new hospital so residents wouldn’t should drive 90 minutes for high-tech providers akin to digital imaging, full surgical choices, echocardiograms, 3D mammography and extra.
Utilizing a partnership between the town and a municipal well being care authority, Thomasville Regional secured federal funding from the Division of Agriculture and opened on March 3, 2020, earlier than circumstances of COVID-19 caught hearth within the rural South.
“We thought we have been off to a great begin,” stated James, the chief government. “After which all the pieces shut down.”
Sufferers stopped displaying up for scans, elective surgical procedures, mammographies and different moneymaking providers due to pandemic shutdowns, and monetary reviews that regarded promising turned perilous inside weeks.
Recognizing that new hospitals couldn’t calculate COVID-19 losses as a result of they couldn’t evaluate 2020 numbers with previous years, Well being and Human Companies allowed hospitals to make use of finances numbers for calculations reasonably than prior monetary statements. That’s how the hospital decided that it was lacking out on greater than $7 million in support, James stated.
Whereas the hospital continues to be ready on that support, he stated, the federal government did agree to offer $1 million in help that went to all different hospitals.
“That was OK, however different hospitals which are in our area received $8 million, $9 million,” he stated.
The Birmingham-based Medical Properties Belief not too long ago gave the hospital $2 million and James stated leaders are assured Thomasville Regional will finally get the additional federal support. “However it can take time,” he stated.
Like Thomasville Regional, Rock Regional in Kansas noticed revenues dry up quickly after opening, stated Beus, the CEO. It’s nonetheless experiencing employees shortages due to the pandemic and having to pay a premium to journey nurses to work shifts on the wards, he stated, all whereas working with consultants and members of Congress simply attempting to remain afloat.
“It’s been somewhat irritating,” he stated.