RICHMOND, Va. -- The three biggest hospital systems in Central Virginia each received money from the $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security (CARES) Act, CBS 6 has learned.
The stimulus plan signed by President Donald Trump in March includes $100 billion for hospitals and medical providers as the United States healthcare system faces unprecedented financial strain. The Department of Health and Human Services distributed the first $30 billion last week based upon hospital systems reported 2019 Medicare revenues.
Representatives for Bon Secours and Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) confirmed they received funds, but did not specify how much.
VCU Health System told the Problem Solvers it received $25 million from the early April distribution, but said that amount covered less than half of the financial impact the hospital experienced during the first 30 days of tracking losses related to COVID-19.
“We began preparing for the crisis months ago with increased PPE, equipment allocation and workforce considerations, and we continued to monitor and escalate our response as the pandemic appeared in our markets,” HCA spokesperson Jeff Caldwell wrote in an email to the Problem Solvers.
On top of the expenses associated with outfitting frontline workers to fight COVID-19, hospital administrators are also facing massive revenue shortfalls due to the cancellation of profitable elective medical procedures.
“Elective surgery is their bread and butter,” Governor Ralph Northam acknowledged in a news conference last week. “That's how they keep the lights on in their facilities, so that the sooner that we can get them back up and running the better for everybody.”
Data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association showed nearly 31 percent of Virginia hospitals, and 53 percent of rural Virginia hospitals, had negative operating margins in 2018. Compounding the problem further, people are reluctant to seek care for true emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes.
A recent survey by the state’s hospital association indicated Virginia health systems anticipated revenue losses exceeding $600 million over a 30-day period spanning late-March through late-April.
Another round of stimulus funds is expected to be released this week. When asked for a list of facilities receiving money under the CARES Act, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said it would publicly disclose the distributions “if legally permitted to do so.”
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.