Even with federal relief funding of $4 billion, Florida hospitals have lost billions over the last year due to the onslaught of the COVID pandemic, according to the President and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association Mary Mayhew.
Despite these losses, Justin Senior, CEO of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said federal funding “prevented a true medical catastrophe.” He said the CARES provider relief fund was “a lifeline, not a windfall” and that hospitals in the state lost much more in revenue than they received.
The two hospital representatives spoke as part of a panel discussion before the Florida House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee today.
Mayhew reported Florida hospitals lost roughly $3 billion in revenue due to reduced hospital utilization in the form of delayed surgeries and procedures. Mayhew said hospitals are still seeing a “dramatic reduction” in elective procedures as patients postpone regular screenings and “elective” surgeries. She said healthcare workers are concerned that these delays are causing a pent-up demand and that the patients are showing up sicker and in greater need of services.
At the same time hospitals were experiencing “unprecedented” revenue losses, they also saw $1 billion in new spending associated with fighting the pandemic. The pandemic put a tremendous strain on hospital staffing and saw nurses leaving the profession “like never before.” Hospitals had to depend more on contract employees to fill the gaps, with one hospital, Memorial Healthcare, seeing the cost of contract employees doubling over the last year.
Mayhew told the committee that even though hospitals regularly keep a ready supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), even they had to “struggle mightily” to find and purchase the volume and right types of PPE needed.
“It was unprecedented the amount of PPE we were burning through,” Mayhew said.
She said the total net loss to the 106 Florida hospitals which responded to FHA’s recent survey was $2 billion.
There seems to be no more federal help on the horizon. Mayhew told the committee it was her understanding that the current federal COVID bill being proposed has no direct relief for hospitals in its $1.9 trillion package.
Both Mayhew and Senior were frustrated with the disparity of how the CARES funding were distributed. They reported New York received $12 billion in comparison to Florida’s $4 billion.
“Florida received less money than the average state, less per capita and less per COVID patient,” said Senior.
But he pointed out people were “more likely to survive in Florida than anywhere else.”
Mayhew told the committee, ” Florida health care heroes put their lives on the line to protect, support and heal us. They were there when we needed them during the pandemic and with your support, they will be there as we recover.”