Hospital ready to restart services

Allen County Regional Hospital is prepared to resume offering elective surgeries. The procedures are contingent upon a statewide stay-at-home order ending Sunday, as expected.

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Local News

April 29, 2020 - 10:31 AM

If Gov. Laura Kelly allows stay-at-home orders to expire Sunday, Allen County Regional Hospital is ready to restart elective surgeries on Monday.

Other services that have been postponed or reduced — like group therapy for senior citizens, sleep studies and physical therapy — also will ramp back up.

Visitor restrictions, though, will continue. Visitors are allowed at the hospital only under certain conditions, such as one person to accompany a patient who is undergoing surgery. All visitors and patients must undergo a screening process to determine their likelihood of having COVID-19, have their temperature taken and wear a mask.

The hospital’s auxiliary volunteer service will not be called back yet, as most of those volunteers are among the age group most at risk for complications from COVID-19.

The hospital postponed 60-70 elective surgeries because of the virus, Larry Peterson, chief financial officer and interim CEO, said. Since the global health crisis began, the hospital has offered only urgent or emergency surgeries.

The hospital typically conducts about 70 surgeries a month. That number dropped to 55 in March, when the crisis began, and to just 10 in April.

If surgeries resume, anyone who requires anesthesia will need to take a test for COVID-19 a few days prior to surgery. Those with positive results will not receive surgery.

THE VIRUS hit the hospital’s bottom line by hundreds of thousands of dollars, but ACRH already has recouped most of the loss through state and federal grants with more expected to come. 

ACRH’s net revenue was down $369,000 in March, and the financial hits didn’t begin until the second half of the month. April will be much worse, Peterson predicted. Preliminary estimates indicate the hospital lost about 35% of its typical patient revenue in April.

“I expect we’ll have a pretty bad month” when the numbers are finalized, Peterson predicted.

But the hospital is flush with cash after taking out a $3.7 million loan in the early days of the pandemic, a precautionary step to ensure financial stability at an unsure time. Most of that money is untouched and $2.5 million is sitting in a bank, to be used to pay back the loan.

Peterson said he took out the loan to make sure the hospital had sufficient cash flow. At the time, he wasn’t sure what the impact of the health crisis would be or what sort of financial assistance would be available.

“Before we got that, we were having some serious cash flow issues,” Peterson said.

A couple of weeks after the hospital received the loan proceeds, it took in $518,000 from the federal CARES Act. Another $100,000 arrived from the State of Kansas Monday. He expects a second round of financial assistance from the CARES Act, but isn’t sure how much money will come.

The hospital also plans to apply for the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program, although it’s not clear if funds will still be available.

He also plans to ask FEMA to reimburse the hospital for its staffing expenses to screen visitors and patients who enter the hospital. Staff must cover the entrances 24/7. The FEMA reimbursement program has strict requirements and will only cover 75% of the costs.

PATTY McGuffin, chief nursing operator, gave hospital trustees an update Monday evening on the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Allen County has not yet reported a positive case of COVID-19, and there is currently no one under investigation for the illness at the hospital’s laboratory. 

Allen County has tested 115 residents, a rate of 9.30 per 1,000 residents, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Not all of those tests may have been conducted at ACRH, though.

The hospital has enough testing supplies to conduct more than 100 additional tests, McGuffin said. The hospital also has enough personal protection equipment on hand, with options to access more through the HCA Healthcare system or private vendors, or from access through the local emergency preparedness department.

If the hospital sees patients with COVID-19 symptoms that are serious enough to require a ventilator, that patient would be sent to a larger facility in Kansas City. HCA, which currently manages ACRH, is sending COVID-19 patients to Research Medical Center. That facility has 80 intensive care beds available, and is currently caring for about 18 virus patients, she said.

ACRH will go ahead with a Red Cross blood drive on May 13 and 14, but the location will be moved to the North Community Building.

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