Meeker Memorial Hospital

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield.

With elective surgeries put on hold and other medical visits greatly reduced, the hospital expects to finish its fiscal year with a $9.8 million net loss, according to a report from MMH Chief Financial Officer Nicole Siegner.

The hospital is pursuing federal grants and forgivable loans, which could improve the financial picture, but it still expects a dramatic change in its 2020 financial picture, compared to 2019.

Chief Executive Officer Kurt Waldbillig found somewhat of a silver lining, however, as he and Siegner discussed the hospital’s position during a Meeker County Board meeting earlier this month.

Waldbillig and Siegner returned for a board workshop session June 23 to continue the hospital finance discussion.

The hospital now has about a four-month supply of personal protective equipment and is striving to have a six-month supply of some specific PPE such as surgical masks and gloves.

As of mid-June, Meeker Memorial Hospital was conducting about 10 COVID-19 tests per day at its drive-up testing area outside the emergency room.

Due to limited supply, in-house testing for COVID-19 is taking place only for surgical patients, with results of those tests back within 40 minutes, Waldbillig said. The hospital received its first shipment of those test kits in early June, with another 100 arriving recently, he said.

Few hospitals MMH’s size have the ability to test in house, Waldbillig said. The in-house tests have a benefit of helping the hospital conserve PPE and return to a more normal surgical schedule.

That’s good news as Meeker Memorial tries to get back on track financially. The hospital finished its 2019 fiscal year with operating income of $3.5 million, a profit margin of 9.6 percent, and it started the new year strong with a net income of $278,000 in January.

The hospital took on the Carris Health clinic operations in Litchfield in February and launched a new electronic medical records system, as well, leading to an operating loss of about $1.3 million for the month.

March looked like it would be a good month of financial recovery, Siegner said, and the hospital did post a net income of $68,000. But the arrival of the coronavirus and extra safety measures — including the governor’s order stopping elective surgeries — foreshadowed financial downturn.

In-patient revenue fell about 50 percent from historical and budget numbers during the past three months, with clinic numbers down about 40 percent from historical and budget numbers. April saw a $1.4 million net loss, with May’s number “close behind,” Siegner said.

The return to elective surgeries and a loosening of other restrictions is expected to improve the hospital’s bottom line, Waldbillig said.

“We are open for business,” he said. “We’re looking at how do you access health care and what’s best for individual patients. All aspects of the business are open.”

Waldbillig also credited staff for their approach to the downturn, with 38 members accepting volunteer layoffs.

“The staff have been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The attitude standpoint has been fantastic.”

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