You may think that hospitals and health care providers are incredibly busy caring for those that have contracted the novel coronavirus, but in our state where only 303 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, this pandemic has actually increased costs and decreased revenue, causing a major cash crunch across our health care system.
The cash flow issue stems from added costs of increasing emergency department capacity and ensuring extra staff are available if a hospital surge occurs. Meanwhile, the cancellation of all elective and non-emergency surgeries has decreased revenue, pushing some hospitals and health care providers into dangerous financial territory.
We know that hospitals’ and providers’ ability to keep their doors open and serve Oregonians is critical not only during this pandemic, but also to preserve our health care delivery system. In southern and rural Oregon where there is less access to providers, clinics, and hospitals, existing hospital and health systems remaining open is paramount.
For these reasons, Governor Brown and her policy experts are crafting a bridge loan program for 24 critical access hospitals across the state. This loan program is still in the beginning stages of drafting, but it’s clear the Governor has heard the concern from hospital and provider systems about cashflow and intends to do something about it.
The legislation proposed to deliver aid to these critical access hospitals appropriates $50 million dollars to this program and indicates that the source of the capital would be the dollars given to Oregon through the federal CARES Act relief package. And while this program is dedicated to bailing out hospitals that are currently in financial dire straits, it does require those health systems to pay back the state at a low interest rate of zero to one percent. There are also requirements in the legislation around hospital staffing and labor.
Currently, the Governor’s office and other stakeholders are working diligently to ensure that critical access hospitals and other providers have the financial resources they need to continue the battle against COVID-19 while still ensuring that the state maintains a balanced budget.