ILWACO — Since March, hospitals large and small alike have been dealt significant financial blows in the United States due to the covid-19 pandemic, as elective surgeries and other core services were halted to ensure hospitals were prepared for a flood of patients who tested positive for the virus to come through their doors.
While Pacific County has largely been spared so far from covid-19 spreading rampantly throughout its communities, the Long Beach Peninsula’s sole hospital, Ocean Beach Hospital, has beared the brunt of economic fallout from the pandemic. But federal funds in the form of grants and loans are helping ease the hospital’s financial burden as it begins to reopen and again offer a fuller slate of services.
As part of the federal CARES Act, OBH received about $15 million in grant and loan funds, including a $2.75 million loan as part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program. According to Larry Cohen, the hospital’s CEO, that loan is being used to cover employees’ payroll, some rent costs and other similar expenses.
The PPP funds allow OBH — like other recipients of the program — 24 weeks to use the funds. The loan covers eight weeks of the hospital’s costs, and with OBH not formally reducing its staffing levels, Cohen expects the funds to be used up within about 10 weeks.
The largest chunk of funds OBH received from the CARES Act was a loan in the form of a $7.72 million Medicare Advanced Payment. The Medicare payment is being paid ahead of time to OBH and will be used to cover Medicare patient bills that begin being paid this August.
Cohen said Medicare will not send OBH any more money for Medicare-related services until the advanced payment has been exhausted. If not all of the funds have been used up within one year of the original payment date, Medicare will recover those unused funds.
OBH also received a $4.55 million “general funds” grant, which Cohen said will be used to cover: lost revenue; costs associated with staff and patient safety, such as the purchasing of simple masks, N-95 and KN-95 masks, gowns, gloves and advanced respiratory protection equipment; and items that may be needed to care for suspected or actual covid-19 patients.
The hospital’s charitable foundation is mounting a separate $100,000 fundraising campaign to help pay for other expenses associated with an isolation unit to safely care for infectious covid patients.
The hospital saw significant operating losses in April and May, Cohen said, resulting in negative total operating margins even when factoring in tax receipts and other non-operating source funds. The CARES Act dollars, Cohen said, allow the hospital to continue meeting the needs of emergency room, inpatient and swing bed patients, and provide emergency and more routine surgeries.
“Fortunately, the CARES funds have allowed us to maintain core services, avoid furloughs, and continue to provide essential care to our community, as we proudly have for the last 86 years,” Cohen said in an email.
Pacific County’s move last week to phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Plan allows OBH to see more physical therapy, laboratory, imaging, cardiac rehabilitation and clinic patients. Cohen said the recent move is translating to an increase in patient services revenue for the hospital.