New U.S. hospitals face financial crisis due to COVID-19 relief money
New U.S. hospitals face financial crisis due to COVID-19 relief money

New U.S. hospitals face financial crisis due to COVID-19 relief money

A man walks through the lobby of Thomasville Regional Medical Center in Thomasville, Ala. The hospital is among three in the country that say they are missing out on federal pandemic relief money because it opened during or shortly before the COVID-19 crisis began. (AP Photo / Jay Reeves)

THOMASVILLE, Ala. (AP) – An entire city was celebrated in 2020 when the Thomasville Regional Medical Center opened early in the coronavirus pandemic, offering advanced medicine previously unavailable in a poor, isolated part of Alabama. The timing of the band clipping worked perfectly: New treatment options would be available in an underserved area, just as a global health crisis was unfolding.

Ultimately, the same timing may be the reason for the hospital’s regret.

Now deep in red two years inside the pandemic, the hospital with 29 beds, $ 40 million with a soaring, sun-drenched lobby and 110 employees among three medical centers in the United States, say they are missing out on millions in federal pandemic relief because the facilities are so new that they lack a complete pre-crisis account to prove how much it cost them.

In Thomasville, located in timber land about 95 miles north of Gulf Coast Harbor Mobile, hospital officials have been working for more than a year to convince federal officials that they should have received $ 8.2 million through the CARES Act, not just the $ 1 million they received. With a total debt of $ 35 million, the search becomes more urgent with each passing day, said Curtis James, the CEO.

“No hospital can sustain itself without getting the CARES Act money that everyone else got,” James said.

Staff are trying to save money by cutting supplies, but residents including Judy Hutto are worried about the hospital’s future. Hutto recently drove there for testing from his home 15 miles out in the country.

“The areas need it,” she said. “It’s a nice hospital.”

CEO Barry Beus is also trying to close a hole at Rock Regional Hospital, located south of Wichita in Derby, Kansas. The hospital is to have as much as $ 15.8 million, officials said, but because it first opened in April 2019 and lacks complete pre-pandemic accounts, it has received just over $ 985,000.

The only thing that has saved the facility from financial ruin so far is the collaboration between doctors, contractors and suppliers who have not pushed for payments, he said. “If we lose them, we’re losing the hospital,” Beus said.

Three Crosses Regional Hospital opened in 2020 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, collecting a staggering $ 16.8 million in losses in just three quarters, while receiving only $ 28,000 in assistance, said Landon Fulmer, a Washington-based lobbyist three hospitals to obtain additional funding. . Each facility is penalized for being new, even though they provided the same expensive COVID-19 care as other medical centers and lost revenue from other procedures, including elective surgeries, he said.

“It really is quite a strange situation in a way, one that should not have happened,” Fulmer said.

With about 420,000 health care providers nationwide already receiving aid from a $ 178 billion pot, the government does not cover 100% of the losses for anyone, said Chris Lundquist, a spokesman for the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the program.

“HRSA has strived to provide as much support as possible to as many hospitals as possible within the limits of the law and funding,” he said. The agency said it used proxy financial information for hospitals opening in 2019 or 2020 to create a fair payment system.

“They’ve all received funding,” Lundquist said.

While virtually all of the assistance money is advocated, Lundquist said hospitals seeking additional help can go through a grievance process. Hospitals may also seek additional funding or funding in the coming fiscal years, he said. All three hospitals say they deserve more.

Officials in Thomasville are trying to exploit the influence of Congress. Mayor Sheldon Day has made several trips to Washington, DC, to speak with members of the state congressional delegation and health officials, and the president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson, has contacted the White House for assistance.

“They have been assured that they will be taken care of. But the fact is that when you are dealing with public entities, you do not have the money until you have the money,” Williamson said.

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