Hospitals in the Granite State have taken unprecedented steps to prepare for the potential surge of patients with COVID-19 who need hospitalization and the high-tech, life-saving care they provide. Part of that preparation included suspending all non-urgent, elective surgeries and procedures to help preserve the personal protective equipment (PPE) that as we know is in short supply, ensure that hospitals have the beds available, especially intensive care unit (ICU) beds, to care for a surge of patients with COVID-19, and to help prevent the spread of the virus.
That was the right decision, one made in close consultation with local, state and federal partners, but it has had serious financial consequences for hospitals in the Granite State. As a result of suspending non-urgent, elective surgeries and procedures, hospitals statewide are losing nearly $200 million each month. Those losses are staggering and have created a huge cashflow problem for all hospitals and are simply unstainable.
Without a major infusion of resources, many hospitals, both large and small, will find themselves out of the operating cash they need to maintain vital services within the next several months. In addition to suspending all non-urgent, elective surgeries and procedures, hospitals have stood up incident command centers, enhanced security, modified visitation procedures, moved other patient visits to telehealth platforms, struggled to add capacity within the walls of their hospitals by converting space into patient rooms, partnered with state officials to stand up additional capacity through alternative care sites, secured essential equipment, such as ventilators and adequate supplies of PPE which is so vital to ensuring the health and safety of our front line workers. Again, these efforts and many others, are absolutely the right things to do, but they add costs at a time when revenues have dropped dramatically.
Hospitals are going to need immediate, significant financial relief in order to not only serve their patients today, but to survive this public health crisis and be able to serve their communities in the future.
We greatly appreciate the $50 million emergency relief fund established by Governor Sununu to ensure hospitals and health care organizations can continue their vital mission of caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an essential first step and is already making a difference for hospitals in New Hampshire, but much more will be needed. The CARES Act is another important step in providing critical relief for hospitals and others, and our entire Congressional delegation in Washington has been steadfast in their support of hospitals. The first $30 billion of support from the emergency relief fund included in the CARES Act was recently pushed out and hospitals in New Hampshire received roughly $100 million, which is extremely helpful for this month, but will not solve all of their challenges in the weeks and months ahead. And thanks to many in Congress, including our NH delegation, the most recent version of fiscal relief from Washington included an additional $75 billion for hospitals, another important step in providing financial relief for hospitals across the country and here in New Hampshire.
While the funding received to date is incredibly important and helpful, it doesn’t come close to addressing the gaping financial holes that have been created and we will continue to work with policymakers and the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR) about the crucial need for more resources to help hospitals get through this crisis.
These are challenging times for every sector of our economy and state and federal leaders are being asked to support individuals, families, businesses, hospitals and many more. We understand the challenges are enormous, but so are the consequences on the future of the decisions that we make today. We are heartened by the partnership and collaboration that exists here in New Hampshire as we seek to move forward to not only meet the challenges of caring for those with COVID-19 today, but also as we move forward in a new world to care for our patients and communities. This collaboration will be important as we begin the work of planning for the eventual reopening of hospital facilities and securing much needed testing capacity.
The women and men who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Hampshire’s hospitals are here for you during these incredibly challenging times. They are heroes who have demonstrated day in and day out their willingness to rush in, despite the danger to themselves of doing so, to care for their patients in need. The outpouring of compassion and support we have seen in communities across the Granite State is incredibly heartening and well-deserved recognition. We thank them for their selflessness and dedication to their patients. And we must all work together to support those heroes on the front lines.
Steve Ahnen is president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association