Federal Funds Not Enough To Stop Furloughs, Hospital CFO Says

Apr 22, 2020

Mark Thompson
Credit Monument Health

During a pandemic, healthcare systems might be expected to add workers, but the opposite has happened.  

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 171 U.S. hospitals or health systems have furloughed workers in response to COVID-19. That includes the Avera and Monument health systems in South Dakota. 

And that’s despite $100 billion for hospitals that Congress provided last month in the CARES Act. 

Why are the furloughs happening? Monument Health CFO Mark Thompson in Rapid City said there’s too much money going out and not enough coming in. He said Monument’s share of the $100 billion from Congress was $16 million.  

“It was nowhere close to enough to offset the losses, or the lost revenue and increased expenses,” Thompson said. 

Even with the $16 million from Congress, Thompson said Monument Health expects to bring in $30 million dollars less than expected this fiscal year. 

Like other providers, Monument has shut down elective surgeries and other routine activities to get ready for COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile, with people staying home to fight the virus, fewer patients are going to clinics and emergency rooms. That all means less money coming in. 

At the same time, Thompson said, providers are spending more money on personal protective equipment, outfitting extra space for expected COVID patients, and making telehealth improvements to serve patients remotely. 

“On one hand, we were pumping the brakes because of volumes declining,” Thompson said. “On the other hand, we were pushing the accelerator because we were planning for expected capacity that we’ve been talking about for the last several weeks.” 

More help is on the way from Congress. A bill working its way to the president’s desk this week includes another $75 billion for hospitals. But Thompson said he doesn’t know what Monument’s share will be, or if it’ll help shorten furloughs.