Pandemic slowing hospital finances

Ray Scherer

Hermann Area District Hospital is withstanding the physical demands wrought by COVID-19, but must still vault difficulties posed to its finances.

Last week, in the wake of a Sept. 28 board of directors meeting, Administrator Dan McKinney told the Advertiser-Courier the financial picture is being impacted by the virus on both ends of the spectrum. Patient volumes, meanwhile, were lower for both August and September in comparison with the same time in 2019.

Financially, McKinney said the hospital experienced about a $300,000 loss in August and that revenue is flowing into the hospital at a slower rate due to the decreases in patient services unconnected to covid. But it still doesn't quite paint the entire canvas for a hospital that, like others, is as outfitted as possible against the rigors of the pandemic.

"Right now, we're showing a profit for the year," he said. For the year to date, when compared to last year's pace, HADH shows around a $1.7 million loss. Yet, with grants and other coronavirus-related assistance from government, the hospital is actually showing a $2.4 million profit, McKinney noted.

Hospital officials have dipped the bucket into the well for continued financial aid due to the losses the virus has created. McKinney said applications for all available relief programs have been submitted, yet with not expectation of any other forms of financial help expected this year.

McKinney termed the institution's present stockpile of PPE -- the Personal Protective Equipment, such as goggles, designed to protect staff from exposure to coronavirus -- is "okay. We still have more than 30 days' supply….We're trying to be ready as we can."

Testing at the Southwest Medical Associates clinic for the presence of the virus, among those with approved physician's order, is ongoing under the supervision of Vice Chief of Staff Dr. Michael Rothermich. McKinney said quite a bit of testing was accomplished last Tuesday, yet with no positive cases surfacing from that batch.

Saturday testing has been dropped from the schedule due to low volume of those seeking results. The Gasconade County Health Department is notified whenever a positive case is determined.

Those who do still come to the hospital for regular medical appointments and procedures still must submit to temperature checks and questions concerning potential exposure to covid.

"You can't assume anything," said McKinney of the now-standard precautionary routine.

He said contact tracing has turned up no additional presence of positive coronavirus cases among staff at the Associated Medical Arts clinic in Montgomery City. Online appointments are being handled through the clinic, and business is otherwise continuing there normally.