12 hospitals laying off workers in response to COVID-19

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/12-hospitals-laying-off-workers-in-response-to-covid-19.html?utm_medium=email

Facing a financial squeeze, hospitals nationwide are cutting jobs

To address the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals across the nation are looking to cut costs by implementing furloughs, layoffs or pay cuts. 

U.S. hospitals are expected to lose $323.1 billion this year due to the pandemic, according to a recent report from the American Hospital Association. The total includes $120.5 billion in financial losses that hospitals are projected to see from July through December, as well as $202.6 billion in losses that were projected between March and June. The losses were largely due to a lower patient volume after canceling elective procedures. 

Although Congress allocated $175 billion to help hospitals offset some of the revenue losses and expense increases to prepare for the pandemic, hospitals have said it is not enough.

Nearly 270 hospitals and health systems have furloughed workers in response to the pandemic and several others have implemented layoffs. 

Below are 12 hospitals and health systems that have announced layoffs since June 1:

1. Trinity Health furloughs, lays off another 1,000 workers
Trinity Health, a 92-hospital system based in Livonia, Mich., will lay off and reduce work schedules of 1,000 employees.

2. Ohio children’s hospital cuts jobs
Dayton (Ohio) Children’s Hospital said it has cut jobs to help offset financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. Munson Healthcare to cut 25 leadership positions
Traverse City, Mich.-based Munson Healthcare cut 25 leadership positions to help offset financial losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Erlanger lays off 93 nonclinical employees
Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Erlanger Health System has cut 93 nonclinical positions to help offset financial damage from the COVID-19 pandemic. The layoffs come after the health system cut 11 leadership positions June 12, including the CEO of Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital in Murphy, N.C., and made staff and pay cuts in March.

5. Michigan Medicine to lay off 738 employees by end of June
Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine planned to eliminate 738 positions by the end of June amid financial challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

6. Pennsylvania health system cuts 10% of workforce amid pandemic losses
As part of a restructuring effort to cut pandemic-related losses, State College, Pa.-based Mount Nittany Health System plans to lay off 10 percent of its workforce, or about 250 employees.

7. TriHealth eliminates 440 positions to cut costs
Cincinnati-based TriHealth cut 440 positions as part of a plan to trim at least $140 million in expenditures this year.

8. Layoffs hit U of Kansas Health System
The University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus in Topeka laid off employees after previously implementing furloughs.

9. Tower Health to cut 1,000 jobs
Citing a $212 million loss in revenue through May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Reading, Pa.-based Tower Health plans to cut 1,000 jobs.

10. Colorado hospital cuts 22 positions
Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, Colo., eliminated 22 positions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

11. Arkansas Children’s cuts 42 positions
Little Rock-based Arkansas Children’s Hospital said it is eliminating 42 jobs as part of cost-savings measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

12. North Carolina health system cuts 10% of workforce, closes clinics
Citing a financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, Lumberton, N.C.-based Southeastern Health will permanently close several clinics, cut 10 percent of its workforce and reduce executive pay.

 

 

Hospitals in new COVID-19 hot spots face delicate balancing act with elective surgeries

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/hospitals-new-covid-19-hotspots-face-delicate-balancing-act-elective-surgeries?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT1RJMlpqWTNPREJtTmpGaSIsInQiOiJ0enNDdXU5R0ZEdUJmSE1GcXl5UHd4VjdcL1FQcWE3ckN2YmhLVUhnazNFNlhUOEdLQndTcnRnXC9TbWNzWDhZMW5KWEhtMUxJRDRFdG1uXC84NGVhTHZ5QklGK0Fyc2dadXVcL0phNWFaVGY1SGlVVzN6NFRxVlRLOE9mRmdHR2VmdDgifQ%3D%3D&mrkid=959610

Hospitals in new COVID-19 hot spots face delicate balancing act ...

Some hospital systems located in states that are seeing huge spikes of COVID-19 are continuing to perform elective procedures and developing strategies to avoid a total shutdown.

The experiences of hospitals in states such as Florida and Arizona could inform how systems will handle new surges of COVID-19 cases, especially if a second surge of the virus arrives in the fall. Hospitals have been reticent to shut down surgical procedures, which are pivotal to their bottom line and also impact patient care.

“We are not turning it all the way off,” said Marjorie Bessel, M.D., chief clinical officer for Banner Health, referring to elective procedures. “Our surgeries are needed and medically necessary and people need to have those surgeries done.”

The 28-hospital system has a large footprint in Arizona, which is experiencing a major spike in cases. Bessel said 45% of Arizona COVID-19 patients are in a Banner Health facility.

Like many states, Arizona’s governor required hospitals to shutter elective procedures to ensure there is enough capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 patients. The governor lifted the shutdown May 1, and Banner has slowly ramped up delayed or canceled elective procedures.

“We attempted to reduce the backlog of people who had been waiting or wait-listed,” Bessel told Fierce Healthcare. “We didn’t quite get back to full normal operations, but we got close.”

That progress has been hindered now as COVID-19 cases soar in the state.

But instead of doing a full shutdown, Banner is implementing a tiered and step-wise approach to surgeries.

“One of the things that we are going to try is to do surgeries for patients that don’t need an inpatient stay,” Bessel said. “We are gonna try that and see how that works for us.”

The system is also tightly monitoring the patients that need an intensive care unit stay after their surgery. Banner can transfer patients to other facilities to ensure it has enough capacity.

“We look at our [patient] census almost hourly throughout the day and the night and make these adjustments to best meet the needs of those in the community,” she said.

Tampa General Hospital in Florida resumed elective procedures back in early May and is still performing surgeries as COVID-19 cases rise. The hospital told Fierce Healthcare that it treats COVID-19 patients in a “negative-pressure unit that is separate from other areas of the hospital.”

The hospital has 81 of these rooms and 100 hospitals and has a surge plan to adjust capacity when necessary.

Another important factor for hospitals is to communicate with patients about what is going on. Tampa General, for instance, issued a release on when it is appropriate to go to the emergency room and outlined the procedures for screening patients of COVID-19 to assuage fears.

Hospitals’ own internal processes have also gotten better amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the operating area, COVID-19 has made us more efficient,” said Michael Zinner, M.D., CEO of the Miami Cancer Institute, which is part of 11-hospital system Baptist Health South Florida. “It has taught us how to move things out of the general operating room into ambulatory and more efficient in the turnovers. It has taught us how to adapt.”

Some states could decide to shut down elective procedures again, which is a move Texas has decided to make in four counties in the state.

Getting and keeping enough PPE

One of the key reasons that states ordered hospitals to shut down surgeries was to preserve enough PPE for COVID-19 care.

But hospital systems say they are in a better place now in terms of PPE than they were at the onset of the pandemic, when a buying spree caused hospitals to fight among each other to get supplies.

“We are a heck of a lot better than we were two months ago,” Zinner said.

He added that Baptist Health even bought a stake in a domestic PPE manufacturer, a move Banner Health made as well.

“Besides the current spike, we were preparing for what we think will be a surge in the fall,” Zinner added.

Another important development for hospitals now is there are guidelines for how to reprocess PPE.

“We have found ways to reprocess some PPE safely so you can reuse it without losing efficacy and take it through a decontamination procedure,” said Michael Calderwood, M.D., an epidemiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.

He pointed to using ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide as among methods facilities can use to reprocess their supplies.

The type of PPE that is used in surgeries is also sometimes different than the equipment used to treat COVID-19 patients, Bessel said.

“They use a procedural mask for most of the cases, while the masks in shortage has been the N-95 respirators,” she said.

 

 

 

Credit downgrades aren’t attributable to COVID-19 but cash flow will be a challenge

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/credit-downgrades-arent-attributable-covid-19-cash-flow-will-be-ongoing-challenge?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTUdSbVptVmhaR0ZpT0RJMyIsInQiOiJ2TVwvb3g5VWF4R05DeWFScVJ4U0lXeW9xWG1cL0pVMWo1RE1cL24rd21ySEErbk9kZWNIXC9hdmZYYmJBcGU1RDQ5MDVDNXVyZ2RZSWo2djRRSXhSOVFVQk1yNjFWOTVoVjlkTXVxXC95QXU1SU8yMEhJcEtHZXJ3ZDhDc2RMb2RcLzlMcSJ9

Just How Bad Is My Bad Credit Score? | Credit.com

The coronavirus is mainly affecting the credit outlook for the rest of the year and beyond as hospitals adapt to new financial realities.

While the COVID-19 coronavirus is likely to cause cash flow and liquidity issues for hospitals through the end of the year and into 2021, the credit outlook for the healthcare industry isn’t as dire as some had feared. While there have been some downgrades this year, most of those are attributable to healthcare financial performance at the end of 2019.

At a virtual session of the Healthcare Financial Management Association on Wednesday, Lisa Goldstein, associate managing director at Moody’s Investors Service, said the agency is taking a measured approach to issuing credit ratings and will “triage” these ratings based on factors such as liquidity and cash flow.

“Changes are happening daily, and sometimes hourly with funding coming from the federal government,” said Goldstein, “so we’re taking a very measured approach.”

Healthcare is among the most volatile industries being affected by the coronavirus due to the fact that it operates like a business, with a general lack of government support to pay off debt.

Credit downgrades are on the rise, but there’s historical precedent at play. Looking at data beginning with the 2008 financial crisis, there were consistently more downgrades than upgrades in the healthcare industry, owing to its inherent volatility. It was and has generally been subject to public policy and competitive forces. In any given year, downgrades exceed upgrades.

After passage of the Affordable Care Act, however, the number of uninsured Americans hit an all-time low. Hospitals grew in occupancy and revenues improved. The situation started to worsen once more when it became clear that there was a national nursing shortage, as well as top-line revenue pressure from government and commercial payers lowering their rates, but credit downgrades didn’t truly explode until this year. There have been 24 downgrades so far this year, already exceeding the 13 downgrades in all of 2019.

The rub is that it’s not the coronavirus’s fault.

“Most downgrades were in the first quarter of the year,” said Goldstein. “We did have a lot of downgrades in March, which is when the pandemic really started – when it became a pandemic – but even though there were 11 downgrades in March, it was based on what we’d seen through the end of 2019. There were problems that were appearing that had nothing to do with the pandemic.”

Basic fundamental operating challenges were becoming more pronounced during that time. A decline in inpatient cases, a rapid rise in observation stays, a decline in outpatient cases to competing clinics and health centers, and staffing and productivity challenges all contributed to material increases in debt.

COVID-19’s effects on hospital credit ratings are in the outlook for the rest of the year and beyond. Interestingly, in March, Moody’s changed its outlook from negative to stable.

“We haven’t seen anything like this,” said Goldstein. “The industry has been through shocks, but something this long in duration has been something we think will have an impact on financial performance going forward.”

Moody’s anticipates cash flow will remain low into 2021, mostly from the suspension of elective surgeries, rising staffing expenses and uncertainty around securing enough personal protective equipment. Liquidity is still a concern, but is more of a side issue due to Medicare funding providing a Band-Aid of sorts. The CARES act will help to fill some of that gap, but not all of it, said Goldstein.

She added that the $175 billion in stimulus funding is favorable, but modestly so, since it is estimated to cover only about two months’ worth of spending. The good news is that the opportunity to apply for grant money, which doesn’t have to be repaid, can help to fill some of the gap.

Some hospital leaders are concerned that if they violate covenants – also known as a technical default – their credit outlook will be downgraded. Goldstein sought to assuage those concerns.

“Debt service covenants are expected to rise, but an expected covenant breach or violation won’t have an impact on credit quality because it’s driven by an unusual event happening,” she said. “It doesn’t speak to your fundamental history as an operating entity.”

 

 

Coronavirus spike won’t end elective surgeries, Milwaukee hospital execs say

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/coronavirus-spike-won-t-end-elective-surgeries-milwaukee-hospital-execs-say.html?utm_medium=email

Medical Technology News - COVID-19 Risk in Elective Surgery Reboot

Healthcare executives in the Milwaukee area say they plan to continue offering elective care even if COVID-19 hospitalizations spike, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal

Many public health experts expect a second wave of COVID-19 infections to hit by the end of the year. But the healthcare executives said that hospitals won’t need to implement strict elective care cancellation procedures as they did in March and April because more is known about the virus.

“We know COVID now,” Jeff Bahr, MD, chief Aurora Medical Group officer for Advocate Aurora Health, told the Business Journal. “I accept that there might be another peak. The name of the game right now is to be able to continue to serve patients and continue despite another bump or spike.”

Dr. Bahr added that Advocate Aurora Health executives plan to continue “with minimal interruption” to elective surgical procedures. 

Spokespeople for ProHealth Care, Froedtert Health, the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Wisconsin also told the Business Journal that their organizations plan to continue some or all elective surgeries even if there is a second surge in COVID-19 cases.

Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO John Raymond Sr., MD, told the Business Journal that “Even with a second wave or surge of COVID-19 cases, I do not believe that we will need to return to the stringent restrictions that were imposed on elective procedures and routine clinical care in March and April of this year.”

ProHealth Care and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin officials said that they plan to offer elective care amid  a spike, but the amount of that care will depend on several factors, including whether there’s enough protective gear for staff. 

Health systems across the U.S. canceled elective procedures in mid-March in an effort to prepare for a spike in COVID-19 cases. As a result of the cancellations of the more lucrative services, health systems saw steep revenue drops. Throughout the last month, hospitals have started to resume elective services.  

 

 

5 health systems cutting physician salaries

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/compensation-issues/5-health-systems-cutting-physician-salaries.html?utm_medium=email

Pay Cuts, Furloughs, Redeployment for Doctors and Hospital Staff ...

To help offset revenue losses attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals have implemented pay cuts for staff, including physicians.

Below are five hospitals or health systems that have announced pay cuts for clinicians, reported by Becker’s Hospital Review in the last month.

1. ThedaCare physicians, advanced practice clinicians take pay cuts
ThedaCare physicians and advanced practice clinicians will take a 10 percent pay cut to help reduce the Appleton, Wis.-based health system’s financial hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Providence to cut salaries of 1,200 providers
Renton, Wash.-based Providence plans to reduce the salaries of 1,200 high-paid medical providers in its Oregon division to help offset losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. Providence told Becker’s Hospital Review that the decision to cut salaries was made by local leadership and is limited to Oregon-based providers.

3. Cleveland’s University Hospitals to cut all physician, clinical leader pay
University Hospitals, based in Cleveland, said it will temporarily cut pay for all physicians and clinical leaders in the organization to help offset losses driven by the pandemic.

4. Sentara executives, physicians take pay cuts
Senior leaders, executives and physicians at Norfolk, Va.-based Sentara Healthcare are taking pay cuts to help address an anticipated $778 million shortfall against projected revenue due to COVID-19, the organization confirmed to Becker’s Hospital Review.

5. Loyola Medicine CEO, physicians take pay cuts amid pandemic
Leadership and faculty physicians at Maywood, Ill.-based Loyola Medicine will take three-month pay cuts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Shawn Vincent said in an interview with Becker’s Hospital Review.

 

 

 

 

Moody’s: Patient volume recovered a bit in May, but providers face long road to recovery

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/moody-s-patient-volume-recovering-may-but-providers-face-long-road-to-recovery?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWmpjeVlXVTRZV0l5T1RndyIsInQiOiJLWWxjamNKK2lkZmNjcXV4dm0rdjZNS2lOanZtYTFoenViQjMzWnF0RGNlY1pkcjVGcFwvZFY4VjFaUUlZaFRBT1NRMGE5eWhGK1ZmR01ZSWVZWGMxOHRzTkptZVZXZmc5UnNvM3pVM2VIWDh6VllldFc3OGNZTTMxTDJrXC8wbzN1In0%3D&mrkid=959610

Moody's: Patient volume recovered a bit in May, but providers face ...

Patient volumes at hospitals, doctors’ and dentists’ offices recovered slightly in May but lagged well behind pre-pandemic levels, according to a new analysis from Moody’s Investors Service.

In all, the ratings agency estimated total surgeries at rated for-profit hospitals declined by 55% to 70% in April compared with the same period in 2019. States required hospitals to cancel or delay elective procedures, which are vital to hospitals’ bottom lines.

“Patients that had been under the care of physicians before the pandemic will return first in order to address known health needs,” officials from the ratings agency said in a statement. “Physicians and surgeons will be motivated to extend office or surgical hours in order to accommodate these patients.”

Those declines narrowed to 20% to 40% in May when compared to 2019.

Emergency room and urgent care volumes were still down 35% to 50% in May.

“This could reflect the prevalence of working-from-home arrangements and people generally staying home, which is leading to a decrease in automobile and other accidents outside the home,” the analysis said. “Weak ER volumes also suggest that many people remain apprehensive to enter a hospital, particularly for lower acuity care.”

The good news:  The analysis estimated it is unlikely there will be a return to the nationwide decline of volume experienced in late March and April because healthcare facilities are more prepared for COVID-19.

For instance, hospitals have enough personal protective equipment for staff and have expanded testing, the analysis said.

For-profit hospitals also have “unusually strong liquidity to help them weather the effects of the revenue loss associated with canceled or postponed procedures,” Moody’s added. “That is largely due to the CARES Act and other government financial relief programs that have caused hospital cash balances to swell.”

However, the bill for one of those sources of relief is coming due soon.

Hospitals and other providers will have to start repaying Medicare for advance payments starting this summer. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services doled out more than $100 billion in advance payments to providers before suspending the program in late April.

Hospital group Federation of American Hospitals asked Congress to change the repayment terms for such advance payments, including giving providers at least a year to start repaying the loans.

Another risk for providers is the change in payer mix as people lose jobs and commercial coverage, shifting them onto Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) insurance exchanges.

“This will lead to rising bad debt expense and a higher percentage of revenue generated from Medicaid or [ACA] insurance exchange products, which typically pay considerably lower rates than commercial insurance,” Moody’s said.

 

 

 

Navigating a Post-Covid Path to the New Normal with Gist Healthcare CEO, Chas Roades

https://www.lrvhealth.com/podcast/?single_podcast=2203

Covid-19, Regulatory Changes and Election Implications: An Inside ...Chas Roades (@ChasRoades) | Twitter

Healthcare is Hard: A Podcast for Insiders; June 11, 2020

Over the course of nearly 20 years as Chief Research Officer at The Advisory Board Company, Chas Roades became a trusted advisor for CEOs, leadership teams and boards of directors at health systems across the country. When The Advisory Board was acquired by Optum in 2017, Chas left the company with Chief Medical Officer, Lisa Bielamowicz. Together they founded Gist Healthcare, where they play a similar role, but take an even deeper and more focused look at the issues health systems are facing.

As Chas explains, Gist Healthcare has members from Allentown, Pennsylvania to Beverly Hills, California and everywhere in between. Most of the organizations Gist works with are regional health systems in the $2 to $5 billion range, where Chas and his colleagues become adjunct members of the executive team and board. In this role, Chas is typically hopscotching the country for in-person meetings and strategy sessions, but Covid-19 has brought many changes.

“Almost overnight, Chas went from in-depth sessions about long-term five-year strategy, to discussions about how health systems will make it through the next six weeks and after that, adapt to the new normal. He spoke to Keith Figlioli about many of the issues impacting these discussions including:

  • Corporate Governance. The decisions health systems will be forced to make over the next two to five years are staggeringly big, according to Chas. As a result, Gist is spending a lot of time thinking about governance right now and how to help health systems supercharge governance processes to lay a foundation for the making these difficult choices.
  • Health Systems Acting Like Systems. As health systems struggle to maintain revenue and margins, they’ll be forced to streamline operations in a way that finally takes advantage of system value. As providers consolidated in recent years, they successfully met the goal of gaining size and negotiating leverage, but paid much less attention to the harder part – controlling cost and creating value. That’s about to change. It will be a lasting impact of Covid-19, and an opportunity for innovators.
  • The Telehealth Land Grab. Providers have quickly ramped-up telehealth services as a necessity to survive during lockdowns. But as telehealth plays a larger role in the new standard of care, payers will not sit idly by and are preparing to double-down on their own virtual care capabilities. They’re looking to take over the virtual space and own the digital front door in an effort to gain coveted customer loyalty. Chas talks about how it would be foolish for providers to expect that payers will continue reimburse at high rates or at parity for physical visits.
  • The Battleground Over Physicians. This is the other area to watch as payers and providers clash over the hearts and minds of consumers. The years-long trend of physician practices being acquired and rolled-up into larger organizations will significantly accelerate due to Covid-19. The financial pain the pandemic has caused will force some practices out of business and many others looking for an exit. And as health systems deal with their own financial hardships, payers with deep pockets are the more likely suitor.”

 

 

 

 

Recovery of medical staffing firms will lag behind hospitals, analysts say

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/recovery-of-medical-staffing-firms-will-lag-behind-hospitals-analysts-say/580171/

COVID-19 Triggers Cash Need, Lenders Tighten Reins | PYMNTS.com

Dive Brief:

  • Though U.S. hospital staffing companies are slowly beginning to recover from the COVID-19 shutdown and corresponding drop in revenues, that rebound will lag behind hospitals.
  • Recovery of giants like ER staffing firm Envision and AMN Healthcare, which has the largest network of qualified clinicians in the U.S., will be hindered as hospitals prefer to keep their own staff employed over external contractors amid a recession.
  • The “pace of recovery will not be linear,” and depends on the mix of service lines and geography, S&P Global analysts said in a Thursday note. Analysts also expect hospitals to aggressively renegotiate rates and terms with staffing companies later in the year, which could depress margins even more in the long-term.

Dive Insight:

The collapse in patient volume following stay-at-home guidelines implemented earlier this year has had a well-documented effect on provider finances. Hospitals and doctor’s offices prepared for an influx of COVID-19 patients as lucrative elective procedures declined and revenues imploded.

At the nadir in April, anesthesiology services were down 70%, radiology down 60% and ER visits down 40%, S&P said. Analysts expect tentative recovery in May and June, but no return to pre-pandemic volume until mid-2021.

The dramatic reduction slashed the revenues and cash flows of staffing companies, though the worst is likely over. At the beginning of the pandemic, staffing companies and hospitals alike took preventive measures like furloughing nonessential and back-office workers, extending vendor payment terms, aggressively collecting old receivables and onboarding doctors to telehealth. Many have kept up adequate frontline capacity too, despite uncertain demand.

The economy saw some small gains in May as furloughed employees began to trickle back to work. But the increase in health services employment that month came largely in dental health workers and physician offices. Hospitals shed another 27,000 jobs.

Hospitals will likely fill staffing needs internally, bringing back furloughed or laid off employees first as operations slowly improve, before turning once again to medical contractors.

“Given the extended disruption, a looming recession, and possible lasting changes to health care providers, credit metrics will be much weaker than what we had previously expected for nearly all staffing companies,” analysts wrote. “Some staffing companies, particularly those that are highly leveraged, may face very significant liquidity pressures for several months. It is possible not all will be able to withstand the sharp decline.”

S&P Global has taken a number of negative rating actions on staffing companies since late March.

Envision and anesthesiology firm ASP Napa, both rated ‘CCC’ with a negative outlook, have the greatest potential for a default. Envision, owned by private equity firm KKR and one of the largest U.S. physician staffing firms, is reportedly considering a bankruptcy filing as it struggles with $7 billion in debt.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based Team Health and clinical practice management firm SCP Health have enough liquidity to chug along for several more months of lower-than-normal volumes, while AMN and Utah-based CHG Healthcare Services are both in more solid positions to weather the pandemic, S&P said.

But professional outsourced staffing businesses, like anesthesiology and radiology, should recover more quickly, and many firms have gotten financial support from lenders and private equity backers. Team Health, for example, approved a senior secured term loan from its PE sponsor, Blackstone, which covers interest payments in April through mid-May.

Liquidity was also helped by the passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES relief legislation late March.

Several staffing companies have reportedly received grants from the $100 billion allocated by the legislation for providers, along with no-interest loans from accelerated Medicare payments, sparking questions over whether companies backed by cash-rich private equity firms need the funds.

 

 

 

 

Moody’s: US healthcare system rebounds from COVID-19 in May, but a bumpy road lies ahead

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/moodys-us-healthcare-system-rebounds-from-covid-19-in-may-but-a-bumpy-ro/580152/

Banks rating downgrade: Moody's changes outlook on Indian banks to ...

Dive Brief:

  • A Moody’s Investors Service report on Thursday suggests that the U.S. healthcare industry is on the rebound from COVID-19, but recovery will likely to slow and uneven. Moreover, the report expressed concerns that regional flareups of coronavirus could majorly set back the return to normal volumes.
  • Investment firm Jefferies affirmed those worries in hospital traffic data shared Friday, noting “a sharp reversal” in hotspot state Arizona. Analysts tracked “record lows” in Arizona’s hospital traffic last week, down from what was thought to be the trough in April and sagging below May recovery amid a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases and protests.
  • “Whether states can continue their recovery even as cases increase, as we’ve seen in [Texas] and others, or if the recent reversals in [Arizona, Illinois,] etc. become more widespread is a trend to watch in coming weeks,” Jefferies analysts wrote.

Dive Insight:

Large sections of the healthcare sector all but shut down during the spring as the coronavirus led to nationwide shelter-in-place orders. However, as states and municipalities slowly reopen, so are the doors for hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, clinics and other integral components of healthcare delivery.

As a result, Moody’s reported “considerable sequential improvement” during May. For example, while for-profit hospitals saw surgery volumes drop as much as 70% in April compared to the same period in 2019, May volumes were down about 20% to 40% compared to last year’s. Hospital-operated ambulatory surgical centers saw an 80% to 90% drop in April volumes, but only a 30% to 40% drop in May.

However, Moody’s noted that the “path to normalized volumes are not linear.” It also pointed out that emergency room care volumes, which dropped as much as 60% in April, have yet to really rebound, as they still appeared depressed as much as 50% in May.

“This could reflect the prevalence of working-from-home arrangements and people generally staying home, which is leading to a decrease in automobile and other accidents outside the home. Weak ER volumes also suggest that many people remain apprehensive to enter a hospital, particularly for lower acuity care,” the Moody’s report said.

The firm also noted that “the shape of recovery will vary by state, region and service line, reinforcing the importance of diversification for credit quality among healthcare service providers.”

However, Moody’s believes that the darkest days of March and April are behind much of the healthcare sector. It noted that most providers have stockpiled appropriate personal protective equipment and have reconfigured their offices, waiting rooms and other infrastructure to protect the health of both patients and employees.

Traffic data from 3,300 U.S. hospitals, tracked by Jefferies via mobile device pings, indicates that compared to January 2019 levels, national traffic lows of 43.7% in mid-April improved to 63.3% by early June.

But state-by-state analysis reveals some parts of the country are trending backwards. Arizona fell to a new low of 28.5% last week after hitting 51.5% on May 20. The analysts also reported Illinois hit its own new low on June 7.

While Moody’s did express some concern about regional outbreaks, it concluded that the precautions already taken “make it less likely that the U.S. would once again shut down all non-elective care across the nation if there is a second wave of coronavirus infections.”

Moody’s did express some concerns about hospital finances, but noted that for-profit hospitals “have unusually strong liquidity” due to payouts from the CARES Act and other government-sponsored financial relief programs.

Medical device firms should be prepared for a long and uneven recovery, according to Moody’s. The dental and orthopaedic sectors “will see a greater than average impact from consumers’ inability to pay for procedures or their unwillingness to engage with the healthcare system.” Moody’s forecast “a gradual, uneven pace of recovery,” with pre-tax earnings to decline as much as 30% in 2020 compared to 2019, while revenues will shrink around 10%. It expects that earnings will rebound in 2021 to 2019 levels.

Companies that operate in discretionary sectors will be hit harder as they rely on patients able to meet large deductibles or co-payments or to pay for related procedures entirely on their own. Moody’s noted that a large number of these procedures are performed in acute care hospitals with the assistance of robotics, but hospitals may be more conservative in their robotics investments given new budget constraints.

 

 

 

Tower Health cutting 1,000 jobs as COVID-19 losses mount

https://www.inquirer.com/business/health/tower-health-hospital-layoffs-covid-19-20200616.html

Tower Health cutting 1,000 jobs as COVID-19 losses mount

Tower Health on Tuesday announced that it is cutting 1,000 jobs, or about 8 percent of its workforce, citing the loss of $212 million in revenue through May because of the coronavirus restrictions on nonurgent care.

Fast-growing Tower had already furloughed at least 1,000 employees in April. It’s not clear how much overlap there is between the furloughed employees, some of whom have returned to work, and the people who are now losing their jobs permanently. Tower employs 12,355, including part-timers.

“The government-mandated closure of many outpatient facilities and the suspension of elective procedures caused a 40 percent drop in system revenue,” Tower’s president and chief executive, Clint Matthews, wrote in an email to staff. “At the same time, our spending increased for personal protective equipment, staff support, and COVID-related equipment needs.”

Despite the receipt of $66 million in grants through the federal CARES Act, Tower reported an operating loss of $91.6 million in the three months ended March 31, according to its disclosure to bondholders.

Tower, which is anchored by Reading Hospital in Berks County, expanded most recently with the December acquisition of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in a partnership with Drexel University. Tower paid $50 million for the hospital’s business, but also signed a long-term lease with a company that paid another $65 million for the real estate.

In 2017, Tower paid $418 million for five community hospitals in Southeastern Pennsylvania — Brandywine in Coatesville, Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, Jennersville Regional in West Grove, Phoenixville in Phoenixville, and Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, now called Pottstown Hospital, in Pottstown.

Tower’s goal was to remain competitive as bigger systems — the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Jefferson Health from the Southeast, Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network from the east and northeast, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center from the west — encroached on its Berk’s county base.

Tower had set itself a difficult task in the best of times, but COVID-19 has made it significantly harder for the nonprofit, which had an operating loss of $175 million on revenue of $1.75 billion in the year ended June 30, 2019.

Because health systems have high fixed costs for buildings and equipment needed no matter how many patients are coming through the door, it’s hard for them to limit the impact of the 30% to 50% collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hospitals and all other health service providers were hit with this disruption with lightning speed, forcing the industry to learn in real time how to handle a situation for which there was no playbook,” Standard & Poor’s analysts David P. Peknay and Suzie R. Desai said in a research report last month.

Tower’s said positions will be eliminated in executive, management, clinical, and support areas.

The cuts include consolidations of clinical operations. Tower plans to close Pottstown Hospital’s maternity unit, which employs 32 nurses and where 359 babies were born in 2018, according to the most recent state data. Tower also has maternity units at Reading Hospital in West Reading and at Phoenixville Hospital.

Tower is aiming to trim expenses by $230 million over the next two years, Matthews told staff.

Like many other health systems, Tower has taken advantage of federal programs to ensure that it has ample cash in the bank to run its businesses. Tower has deferred payroll taxes, temporarily sparing $25 million. It received $166 million in advanced Medicare payments in April.

In the private sphere, Tower obtained a $40 million line of credit in April for St. Chris, which has lost $23.6 million on operations since Tower and Drexel bought it in December. Last month, Tower said it was in the final stages of negotiating a deal to sell and then lease back 24 medical office buildings. That was expected to generate $200 million in cash for Tower.