U.S. hospitals and medical groups have asked Congress for $100 billion in immediate funding so that they’ll be able to take the necessary steps to fight the battle against the coronavirus epidemic.
A letter to Congressional leaders, dated March 19 and signed by the CEOs of the American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA), stated that due to the expenses to treat COVID-19 cases, hospitals are losing up to $1 million per day.
They added that this loss may increase as the outbreak continues to spread. “There are extraordinary efforts to supply needed equipment. Front line healthcare personnel are not able to go to work due to lack of childcare and closing of schools, resulting in personnel shortages and significant expenses to backfill staff – when that is even possible. Hospitals need help providing childcare for their staff members so they can come to work,” the organizations stated.
They more specifically pointed out that there are dwindling supplies of N95 respirators, isolation gowns, isolation masks, surgical masks, eye protection equipment, intensive care unit (ICU) equipment and diagnostic testing supplies in areas that had the first community outbreaks.
Another area of significant concern for provider organizations, they wrote, is that in order to make sure supplies and inpatient beds are available, surgeries that are not absolutely critical are being postponed in many areas. The result of this, they noted, is “serious financial hardship for many hospitals and physician practices.”
The organizations stated, “Congress needs to assist hospitals, physician practices and other providers on the brink of financial collapse so they are able to make payroll to front line healthcare personnel and all employees in order to ensure that as many inpatient beds as possible are available during this pandemic.”
The critical funding that providers are asking for will be used in several areas, including: covering loss of revenues due to suspension of elective services not related to COVID-19, testing costs, additional training for front line healthcare providers on pandemic preparedness plans, training on telemedicine and telehealth capacities, and increased costs associated with higher staffing levels and backfilling when necessary; sourcing and purchasing additional and potentially more expensive supplies and equipment, when available; standing up emergency operations centers; providing housing and care for patients who do not require hospitalization but do not have housing in order to prevent spread of COVID-‐19; construction or retrofitting facilities to provide separate areas to screen for COVID-19; and additional security.
The groups also pointed out that funding will be needed for the capacity to care for mildly or moderately sick COVID-‐19 patients in an alternative care site when they cannot appropriately care for themselves at home, such as outpatient facilities or large structures in the community that are in close proximity to a hospital will provide additional capacity for sicker COVID-19 patients that need more intensive care.