After more than a year of financial devastation caused by the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals were expected to regain their balance around this date.
However, as the Delta variant expands throughout the region, most hospitals again face financial pressure as they struggle to maintain staff, secure protective equipment, and convince the population that it is completely safe to schedule surgeries of any kind.
Also, little help from the government is expected. Hospitals are expected to remain desolate through 2021 due to the current wave of infections and the possibility of an increase in COVID-19.
Kevin Manemann, the Southern California Region Executive Director at Providence Health, said: “Our hospitals were beginning to break even when this latest surge occurred. We are increasingly concerned about this increase, its depth, and how long it continues.”
It should be noted that Manemann is not the only hospital administrator who knows the financial problems that hospitals will face when trying to improve the situation left by the first stage of COVID-19.
The Southern California Hospital Association reported that each of the three previous waves left many local hospitals with operating losses that were not offset by the millions of dollars received in federal aid funds under the CARES Act.
The Association’s Executive Director, George Greene, cited preliminary figures that hospitals submitted to the California Office of State Health Planning and Development. These figures show that 35 of the 38 private hospitals in Los Angeles showed operating losses in 2020, compared to only 26 in the pre-pandemic era in 2019. Together, the losses total $260 million last year, up from $ 450 million in 2019.
Despite the $ 1.4 billion in federal aid funds, there were still monumental losses. This caused the coffers of Los Angeles County hospitals to flow. Greene said that the operating losses at local hospitals would have been “unpleasant without those funds.”
Notably, the 2020 losses do not reflect the peak of the COVID-19 surge during the winter, which occurred in January and early February.
The biggest problem is that little government aid money has come in so far this year. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors chose not to direct any funds from the county’s $ 1.9 billion allocations from the American Rescue Plan Act enacted by President Joe Biden in March.
One of the biggest problems facing hospitals today is understaffing and reliance on nursing agencies and some health care providers. This has historically happened in all hospitals, but the COVID-19 pandemic managed to increase the need for this type of staff to provide the required care.