Hospital News Roundup: When Can Elective Surgery Resume, Big Losses Looming, and Some Federal Money for Telehealth

April 17, 2020

As losses loom, hospitals, other providers map out criteria for resuming elective surgeries.

The American Hospital Association, the American College of Surgeons, and other groups have issued a joint statement today about conditions necessary to resume elective surgery. The statement says that there should be a “sustained reduction” in the rate of COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days in the relevant geographic area before elective surgery resumes. Other considerations include having enough PPE and staff and patient COVID-19 testing.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he is willing to link another infusion of hospital funding to an additional $250 billion for the federal government's small-business loan program. McCarthy’s openness to hospital funding was depicted as an important development in ending a Republican-Democratic stalemate over additional COVID-19-related spending.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the UCLA Health has 175 cases of COVID-19 among its workforce and that the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes the disease has spread in outpatient clinics, geriatric, and labor and delivery units. The newspapers says there are more cases about medical workers than te tabulations in public report.

The CDC’s MMWR has a report today (published online earlier in the week) about the transmission of SARS-Cov-2 to health care personnel (HCP) by the first U.S. case of community-acquired COVID-19  in Solano County in Northern California. During the patient’s initial four-day hospitalization in February, COVID-19 was not suspected, and the patient was cared for without any COVID-19 precautions while undergoing several procedures that produce the aerosols that can transmit SARS-COV-2. Of the 121 exposed HCPs, three developed confirmed COVID-19. The MMWR says that the HCPs who developed COVID-19 had longer duration of exposure to the patient and were exposed during nebulizer treatments and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) ventilation.

The Illinois Health and Hospitals Association estimates hospitals in the state could be losing $1.4 billion a month collectively because elective surgeries and other ordinary medical services are not being provided, Chicago Tribune reported today.

Ochsner Health System in Louisiana is starting to see a drop in COVID-19 cases. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that Ochsner is expecting to lose $130 million March and April, according to Nola.com. According to the news website, Ochsner Chief Executive Warner Thomas said in a video message to employees today that patient volume had fallen by 70%, hurting revenue while the health system took on costs for for PPE and other COVID-19-related services.

Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Los Angeles have large, shuttered hospitals in their midst, but practical obstacles make the likelihood of them reopening small,NPRreported this week.

UPMC Children’s Hospital, the Mount Sinai Health System, and the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta were among the first six winners of telehealth grants from the Federal Communications  Commission, Healthcare IT News reported Thursday. The CARES Act earmarked $200 million for the FCC  to dole out as telehealth grants.