Responding to and treating patients who have contract COVID-19 has been an “absolute financial nightmare” for hospitals who are quickly running out of cash and are being forced to make drastic cuts to their operations at a time when they are already not always able to maintain adequate staffing levels, according to a report that was released yesterday by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. The report is based on phone surveys conducted with more than 300 hospitals nationwide in the past 10 days.
Three-fourths of the hospitals that were surveyed are already treating patients who have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the report. Hospitals reported “severe” shortages of testing supplies, and extended waits for test results, “widespread” shortages of personal protective equipment, difficulties maintaining adequate staffing levels, not enough capacity to that patients, and increased costs and decreased revenue.
Some hospitals reported that they could be out of money within a matter of weeks, if they did not receive support from the federal government, according to the report.
“Smaller, independent hospitals, such as rural hospitals and critical access hospitals, reported that they were at greater financial risk than those in larger systems and that they could face more financial uncertainty,” according to the report. “As one hospital administrator observed, ‘There is no mothership to save us.’ ”
Many facilities have canceled all elective procedures and cut back on other forms of primary care or clinics as they have focused their efforts on treating patients with COVID-19. Hospitals have had to lay off staff and impose salary cutbacks in order to maintain enough cash to continue operating during the crisis.