Hospitals & Health Systems Facing Devastating Financial Challenges due to COVID-19 Pandemic

 

New Hampshire hospitals and health systems continue to face unprecedented financial challenges due to COVID-19, so we’re very pleased with Governor Sununu’s decision to allocate $24.9 million from the State Emergency Healthcare System Relief Fund to help hospitals confront the pandemic.  The additional funding of $24.9M is a welcomed allocation to those hospitals who have experienced a great financial burden as they responded to this ongoing pandemic.  

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create significant financial pressures for hospitals throughout the state as they remain on the frontlines of the pandemic.  The critical steps hospitals took to prepare and respond to COVID-19 created drastic reductions in both inpatient and outpatient volume, the recovery of which will last long into the next year before pre-COVID baseline operating levels are realized.  These reductions in volume and revenue were made worse by increases in hospital expenses associated with purchasing personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies to strengthen their response. 

We’re grateful for this funding in support of those hospitals’ efforts in responding to the pandemic, but there’s no question that hospitals across New Hampshire face the greatest financial challenge in their history due to the pandemic and will need further significant financial support to help them navigate through this crisis in recognition of the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue they have experienced to-date and will continue to experience in the months ahead.

We look forward to working with the Governor and our federal delegation on securing the critical financial resources our hospitals need to ensure they can continue to be there for their patients and communities today and into the future.

 

Steve Ahnen is president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association

I think we have all watched the events unfolding over the past several days in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests across the nation and even the world calling for change and racial justice.  As health care providers and administrators, you came into this field with one goal: to serve others.  And you do so without regard to one’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  It is truly inspiring to observe how you fulfill that fundamental mission in all that you do on behalf of your patients and the communities that you serve. 

Today’s events have shown again the deep racial divisions that exist in our nation, but they also demonstrate all that is possible and hopeful.  To witness thousands of our fellow citizens raising their voice in peaceful protest, or to see a police officer kneeling with those protestors or holding a sign that reads, “We hear you!”, we know that we can make progress on these challenging issues if we are willing to listen to one another, to understand and to work towards reconciliation and moving forward together

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  It is to these ideals that we must pledge ourselves in order to heal the divisions that exist and build a better community for all.

 

Steve Ahnen

President, New Hampshire Hospital Association

 

For many, Memorial Day traditionally marks the unofficial start to the summer season, but it is an important opportunity for reflection of the men and women who have died in service to our country.  Decoration Day, as Memorial Day was originally known, originated in the years following the Civil War and it became an official federal holiday in 1971. We could not be more grateful for the service and sacrifice of those who fought to secure and maintain our freedom over the years, but it is especially poignant as we reflect on those sacrifices in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we begin the holiday weekend, it is with a heavy heart for those who have lost their battle to COVID-19, but with such tremendous gratitude for the work that you and your clinicians are doing on the front lines to care for the patients and communities who need you now more than ever before.  Hospitals are a beacon of hope, health and healing in their communities during one of the most challenging public health crises many of us have ever experienced in our lives.  It is with a great spirit of hope and optimism from all of us at the New Hampshire Hospital Association and the Foundation for Healthy Communities that we wish you a safe, healthy and happy Memorial Day.

 

Steve Ahnen is president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association

Hospitals & Health Systems at the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Hospitals in New Hampshire have stood up strong in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic to be prepared for and care for those in need.  We are extremely disappointed in the decision today by Governor Sununu to allocate $20 million to help hospitals confront the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Governor’s decision runs counter to the strong, bipartisan recommendation of the GOFERR Legislative Advisory Board to invest $100 million in hospital relief funds in recognition of the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue hospitals across New Hampshire are experiencing and will continue to experience. 

At the urging of national and state public health leaders, hospitals suspended all non-urgent, elective surgeries and procedures in mid-March to prepare for the potential surge of COVID-19 patients.  We did so because it was the right thing to do, but it has had disastrous financial consequences for hospitals all across New Hampshire.  Through the months of March and April, hospitals across the state have lost more than $300 million in revenue, and that will only continue in the months ahead.  While funding from the Federal CARES Act provided over $100 million to hospitals in April, their losses are simply unsustainable.  In early May, rural hospitals received another $112 million in support from the CARES Act, but not all hospitals in New Hampshire received funding, and we are estimating that hospitals losses in May will rival those in April.  By the end of June, we estimate that hospitals across New Hampshire will lose close to $700 million.

While we appreciate the funding made available through the CARES Act, there is no way that it will be adequate to provide the relief hospitals in New Hampshire are going to need to get through this crisis so that they can continue to be there for the patients and communities, today and into the future.  That is why hospitals supported the strong, bipartisan recommendation that came out of the GOFERR Legislative Advisory Board to invest $100 million to help hospitals confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Steve Ahnen is the president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association.

 

National Hospital Week 2020 provides the opportunity to highlight the adage of every hospital and health system in keeping their communities healthy – health comes first.  It is something we celebrate at this time every year, however as our frontline healthcare workers battle the COVID-19 pandemic, this year it holds much more significance.  More than 6 million people are employed by hospitals and healthcare systems nationwide, and given the unprecedented challenges they are facing today, this is the perfect time to say two very simple words:  Thank You.

With these simple but powerful words in mind, this year’s celebration of hospitals, health systems and health care workers is being celebrated through 'A Week of Thanks', where people across the country are thanking their healthcare heroes who go to work fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many across the country, New Hampshire hospitals and our frontline workers have adapted with strength and resilience in their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis on behalf of the patients and communities they serve.  Today and every day, they exemplify the Blue and White H of health, healing and hope, and the promise it makes to its community during these challenging times.

This week and every week, we remain inspired by the courage and selflessness that our healthcare heroes demonstrate every day on behalf of the patients they serve, and we thank you for all you are doing to keep your community safe and healthy.

 

Steve Ahnen is the president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association

National Nurses Week, May 6 - 12, 2020

 

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 the 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.

Every year during National Nurses Week, May 6th – May 12th, and National Hospital Week, May 10th – 16th, we highlight our nurses, hospitals, health systems and health care workers for their commitment and dedication to their patients and communities.  This year, we take the opportunity to thank them for the courage and selflessness with which they are supporting New Hampshire residents statewide through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As frontline heroes, our nurses have demonstrated their capability to provide safe care in difficult situations while remaining confident and strong while empowering their colleagues through innovation, leadership and excellence.   Today and every day, they exemplify the Blue and White H of health, healing and hope, and the promise it makes on behalf of the institution it represents to its community during these challenging times.

The health care environment in New Hampshire has changed as a result of this crisis, but hospitals remain the safe, vital institutions for their communities because of the frontline heroes within who stand ready to care when we need it most.

To every nurse throughout our state and beyond, our gratitude is as deep as your courage, and we thank you for your dedication to keeping your community healthy, and for the bravery, compassion and empathy you provide to your patients every day.

 

Steve Ahnen is the president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, New Hampshire hospitals and their front-line professionals have been vigilant in their planning for how best to keep New Hampshire’s citizens safe and providing the best possible care to those in need of medical assistance battling the virus. 

As we begin the process of responsibly resuming health care services in our hospitals and work our way back to a more normal health care environment, those same hospitals and staff have been planning to make sure all patients coming back to receive the medical care they need will do so in a safe and secure environment.   Every hospital will have procedures in place to ensure the segregation of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients needing treatment.  A key to being able to resume health care services is adequate testing supplies and equipment, as well as the assurance that hospital personnel will have the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their patients.  Each hospital will establish its own timeline for resuming these services based upon their ability to do so safely and effectively.  Patients can enter hospitals knowing no one takes the delivery of health care more seriously than New Hampshire’s doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who have so capably led their institutions through this crisis.

In mid-March, New Hampshire hospitals voluntarily suspended all elective and non-urgent procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, preserve PPE and capacity to hospitalize patients, and support efforts to ensure that hospitals could both safely and effectively provide health care to all of their patients.

As a result of Governor Sununu’s executive orders to ensure social distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses, coupled with vigilant health care efforts undertaken by New Hampshire hospitals, New Hampshire has thus far avoided a large surge of COVID-19 positive patients that would stress and potentially overwhelm hospital capacity.  Thanks to a united effort, working with federal and state officials, health care agencies throughout the state and, most importantly, New Hampshire citizens that stepped up and did their part to prevent spreading of the virus, we are in a position to move forward today. 

New Hampshire hospitals have worked with DHHS Commissioner Shibinette on guidance to responsibly resume time-sensitive health care services. Following this guidance, each hospital will phase-in procedures on a timetable that reflects their individual ability to deliver safe and effective health care in accordance with:

  • Clinical judgement in partnership with patients and families
  • Established guidelines ensuring safe segregation and treatment of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients
  • Sufficient availability of personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of both patients and staff
  • Adequate testing supplies and equipment
  • Alignment with established guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and other regulatory agencies
  • Flexible policies permitting immediate response to any COVID-19 surge

As part of their mission to deliver safe quality care, hospitals will continue to engage in vigilant infection prevention measures to reduce the risk of any infection while implementing additional protocols in response to the pandemic.  Those prevention measures and protocols have included enhanced cleaning protocols, universal screening for risk factors and symptoms of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, changing patient flow and waiting areas to accommodate social distancing, curbside and outdoor testing to better identify and isolate suspected COVID-19 patients and universal masking for patients upon entry to the facility.  All of these measures will remain in place to reduce the risk of spreading any infectious disease, including COVID-19, and help to keep patients safe.

Hospitals statewide have the available capacity to meet the needs of all patients, including those with COVID-19.  We will continue to partner with public health and others as we monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and be prepared for periodic and or unpredictable increases in the number of cases that may occur throughout the state and region over the next several months so that any necessary adjustments can be made.  This gradual phase-in of health care services will be important for the health of the patients and communities our hospitals serve. 

Keeping patients safe through vigilant prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 is a priority for every hospital in New Hampshire, and they remain committed to protecting both patients and health care workers as we move into this new phase of health care delivery.

 

Safely Accessing Health Care Services

Guidelines to Resuming Health Care Services

We applaud the leadership in the US Senate, the US House of Representatives and the Administration in passing the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act so that it can provide additional financial relief and critical support for those across the country responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals and health systems have suffered staggering revenue losses as they suspended elective and non-urgent procedures while expenses have continued to grow due to their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has jeopardized the financial viability of those institutions nationwide.  The additional funding in the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act will provide critical financial relief for hospitals and help ensure the stability of the nation’s health care system as it continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to providing additional financial relief to hospitals and health systems, the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act will invest in a national COVID-19 testing strategy to ensure adequate testing is available to states.

We appreciate the leadership of New Hampshire’s Congressional leaders--Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan, Representative Ann McLane Kuster and Representative Chris Pappas–in pushing this legislation through and ensuring crucial support for our hospitals and healthcare systems.  We look forward to working with our state and federal partners to carry out this legislation to strengthen the efforts of health care heroes on the front lines responding to the COVID-19 crisis in New Hampshire.

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

As we all adjust to life today in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself struggling to grasp the totality of what it is we are experiencing, and what we'll end up facing.  As someone who serves in a role that supports the women and men on the front lines of health care in hospitals and health systems across New Hampshire, I am reminded of something that child advocate Fred Rogers once said about advice he received from his own mother during times of crisis.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."

As I think about this, I see helpers in the form of doctors, nurses and other health care workers rushing in to help those in need.  And they’re doing so despite the potential risks to themselves.  They took an oath to serve their fellow man, and they do it on a daily basis.  In our busy lives, this often gets overlooked.  But in times like these, there is no greater reminder of the commitment and sacrifice of those on the front lines of health care, rushing in to help and care for those in need.

 

Steve Ahnen

President

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, released the below statement on the House passage of the CARES Act:

 

We applaud the leadership in the House of Representatives to move the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act forward so that it can provide financial relief and critical support for those across the country responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This stimulus package will provide critical relief funding for hospitals to help ensure the stability of the nation’s healthcare system as it continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis through provisions such as creating an emergency fund grant program, providing additional support for taking care of COVID-19 patients and relief from spending cuts, among other provisions.

We appreciate the leadership of the entire congressional delegation in moving this important legislation forward, especially Congresswoman Kuster and Congressman Pappas for their efforts in ensuring critical funding for our hospitals and healthcare systems.  We look forward to working with our state and federal partners on carrying out this legislation in support of those at the front lines responding to the COVID-19 crisis in New Hampshire.

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, released the below statement on Governor Sununu’s Stay at Home Order:

The New Hampshire Hospital Association strongly supports and appreciates the decision announced today by Governor Sununu for a stay at home order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in New Hampshire.  This is a significant step that builds on all of the efforts that have already been put in place to help flatten the curve of the pandemic here in New Hampshire and ensure that the health care system is able to manage the surge in patients that will need inpatient care at hospitals across New Hampshire.  Models that predict the potential spread of the virus in New Hampshire show that if we don’t take aggressive steps now, we may lose the opportunity to prevent its rapid escalation which could simply overwhelm the ability of the health care system to respond.  While this is a very difficult decision, we believe it is the right one to help slow the spread of the virus in New Hampshire.  We thank the Governor and encourage all Granite State residents to follow this order so that together we will be able to get through this crisis.

We applaud the agreement announced in Washington to provide financial relief and critical support our hospitals and health systems in New Hampshire and across the country need as the nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Hampshire hospitals and health systems have taken critical steps to respond to this crisis and ensure safe care for patients, health care professionals and communities, including suspending elective procedures and curtailing community practice hours.  These actions, when combined with standing up response efforts to address a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, have resulted in significant revenue losses of at least $200 million a month for our hospitals, which simply isn’t sustainable. 

This stimulus package will provide critical relief funding for hospitals to help ensure the stability of the nation’s healthcare system as it continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis through provisions such as creating an emergency fund grant program, providing additional support for taking care of COVID-19 patients and relief from spending cuts, among other provisions.

We appreciate the leadership of the entire congressional delegation in helping to shape and improve this bipartisan package, and especially Senator Shaheen and Senator Hassan for their hard work in increasing critical funding for hospitals and health care as it moved through the negotiations process in the Senate.  We fully support this legislation on behalf of New Hampshire’s hospitals and health systems on the front lines of this crisis, and we urge the Senate and the House to pass it immediately.

Governor Sununu’s announcement of critical emergency funding for New Hampshire hospitals is a welcomed and essential first step in ensuring that hospitals and health systems on the front lines have the resources they need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with our partners, hospitals and health systems have taken critical steps to respond to this crisis and ensure safe care for patients, health care professionals and communities.  Hospitals recently announced the suspension of all elective and non-urgent procedures, with some curtailing community practice hours, to preserve personal protective equipment and ensure a safe environment for staff, patients and the community.  These actions have resulted in significant revenue losses for hospitals across the state, as has standing up response efforts at hospitals to address a potential surge of COVID-19 patients.  All in, these efforts are resulting in close to $200 million a month in lost revenue for hospitals, which simply isn’t sustainable.  This critical funding for hospitals will help ensure the stability of New Hampshire’s healthcare system as it continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s just a first step, and we must continue to work with our state and congressional delegation for critical federal resources.

The active collaboration among and between hospitals and other health care providers with our local, state and federal partners is key to ensuring the health and safety of our patients, health care workers and our communities. We appreciate Governor Sununu’s actions, as well as the support of our congressional delegation, and look forward to working with all of our partners in coordinating New Hampshire’s response to this public health emergency. 

 

Steve Ahnen is the president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association