I-TEAM: How big is the Band-Aid needed to soothe our local hospital finances?

(Source: WRDW)
(Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 5:26 PM EDT
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Thursday, June 4, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The financial health of our local hospitals is a bit complex. On top of buying extra supplies and extra labor costs, they lost their main source of revenue and the federal government had to step in.

Two months ago, we introduced you to Dr. Floyd Putney -- also known as our Meredith Anderson's dad. He needed his knee replaced, but COVID-19 had other plans.

But out of his good and bad days with his knee: today was a good day.

"But it doesn't mean it's not gonna flare up tomorrow. I'm still going through with the surgery," Putney said. "And I hope it's going to be the first of next month."

The surgery that's finally back on the books after multiple delays. It's been painful, but he's toughed it out, and so have our local hospitals.

They all sustained major financial injuries when elective surgeries were canceled. So the federal government wrote a prescription in the form of the Federal CARES Act.

We combed through federal records and found Georgia got a decent dose of funds. In all, the state got $1 billion, and almost $34 million went just to the city of Augusta.

University Hospital says their share was around $10.3 million, a drop in the bucket of their estimated $28 million in net revenue losses.

AU estimated its losses at $22 million and received around $15 million in federal funds.

Doctors Hospital wouldn't provide a dollar amount, but they said they lost 60 percent in the month of April, and the feds gave them $10 million.

We checked further and found the City of Waynesboro received close to $10 million. Burke Medical Center says their losses stand at around $1.5 million across March and April, and they received around $160,000 from the federal stimulus money.

The city of Thomson got close to a $1 million dollars, or $ 915,442.00. University Hospital - McDuffie received around $420,000 of those federal funds, after losing nearly double in the shutdown.

We found the federal package also extended to employed physicians through University -- they lost $2.6 million and received $1.6 million in federal reimbursements.

Across the river, South Carolina received close to half a billion dollars in federal funding -- with the city of Aiken netting around $12.3 million. But after multiple attempts to contact Aiken Regional in the past week, no one ever got back to us or acknowledged our request.

But back to the patients now able to reschedule procedures -- there was a sense of relief for some when hospitals canceled them, concerned they could be exposed to the virus.

"Is that worry still there, or has it been reduced by the precautions the hospitals taking?" Meredith Anderson asked.

"Oh, definitely been reduced," Putney said. "I don't feel like I'm getting any risk at all."

Meanwhile, as hospitals furloughed or laid-off workers across the country, all of Augusta's major hospitals tell the I-TEAM they were able to retain their employees throughout the height of the crisis.

From Doctors Hospital:

"We implemented a pandemic pay program to continue paying employees 70 percent of their base pay even as work hours were unavailable because fewer patients were seeking treatment. While they were all the right things to do, these actions significantly impacted our daily operations. Continued federal support is critical in addressing the financial impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems everywhere."

From University Hospital:

"An important note and something we are extremely proud of is that even though we had a major drop in business related to the lack of surgical procedures and other elective procedures, we did not furlough or lay off any of our employees, so ultimately the money was used to pay personnel costs and additional expenses related to the COVID-19 virus."

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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