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Hospital Association: COVID-19 crisis costing TN medical centers $1BN a month

While hospitals have had to brace in case of surge, which actually has not come, they've also had to halt a lucrative part of their business.

The COVID pandemic that's putting Tennessee's medical workers on the front lines of the crisis is also proving to be a staggering financial drain, according to the Tennessee Hospital Association.

The group estimates hospitals are losing $1 billion a month, according to a release issued Friday.

"Part of the statewide call to create hospital surge capacity and preserve PPE and other crucial supplies included the cancellation of elective medical procedures," a news release states.

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"Hospitals ... willingly complied with all directives in order to support the public health emergency. However, the unintended result is a staggering negative impact of approximately $1 billion per month to an industry that typically generates an average of $1.7 billion in monthly revenues."

THA advocates for hospitals and health care systems in the state. Its board includes James VanderSteeg, CEO of Covenant Health.

In normal times, hospitals operate along narrow margins, according to the group. In 2018, 60 made no money or actually operated at a loss, according to THA.

Congress has appropriated some aid but hospitals say they need more.

Nurses and other medical personnel have contacted WBIR to say they've been sent home or seen their hours cut because a hospital stopped performing various procedures amid the crisis.

Meanwhile, hospitals have had to set aside space in case they were hit by a wave of coronavirus patients. It hasn't happened in Knox County. As of Friday, there were six people in the hospital with the virus, according to the Knox County Health Department.

The CEO for East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville said the financial effect has been hard. It's seeing a reduction of 80 percent in patient volumes for some services.

"The dramatic reduction in services, coupled with the increased costs of preparing for a surge of COVID-19 patients, has placed Children’s Hospital in a very difficult financial position," Keith Goodwin said in a prepared statement. "Just as families rely on us to be here to care for their children, our staff rely on us for their livelihoods. While having fewer sick children is certainly positive, trying to quickly and temporarily adjust staff to these lower volumes has resulted in sending staff home."

Those who remain have seen their hours cut.

The hospital relies on fundraising to help cover expenses.

Goodwin added, "Now more than ever we need help."

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