Meeker Memorial Hospital

Like many businesses, Meeker Memorial Hospital & Clinics has taken a significant financial hit as the result of the coronavirus pandemic.

And while recent trends indicate an improving medical business climate, the county-owned health care provider will have to rely on federal and state grants to cover an anticipated loss of between $6.5 million and $9.3 million this year.

“Our biggest challenge for the next couple months is going to be cash flow,” Chief Financial Officer Nicole Siegner told the Meeker County Board Tuesday.

The hospital received advance payments from Medicare as assistance, but those fund are now beginning to be pulled back, Siegner said, “so we will be watching that pretty closely just so we can get back to a point of having more cash coming in than going out as we ride our reserves.”

The hospital saw an uptick in surgeries in July, which drives revenue in many areas of the business, and that helped close the month with a net operating loss of $109,179. MMHC had seen net losses of $961,001 in May and $700,875 in June.

Through July, MMHC had a year-to-date net operating loss of $4,684,591.

“We’re still watching expenses pretty closely,” Siegner said.

Earlier this year, Meeker Memorial’s administration team was looking at a $9.3 million net operating loss, but trends show that loss declining to $6.5 million. And most of that loss will be covered by “forgivable” funds from the federal Health and Human Services, as well as state grants, she said.

Chief Executive Officer Kurt Waldbillig told the board that “rumor out there” was that Medicare advances might be forgiven as part of the federal government’s next round of stimulus bills, but “that next round never came out.”

So far federal grants and loans of the forgivable nature have totalled $8.5 million, while the Medicare advance payments were about $5.5 million.

MMHC’s clinics have been running at about 80 percent of what would have been budgeted for the current fiscal year.

Meeker Memorial also will undergo a rural health clinic survey in September, with the expectation that it will earn rural health clinic designation by early 2021, Waldbillig said. That designation “will have a significant impact from a financial standpoint,” he said, as reimbursement from government payors will be at a higher rate.

Aside from the financial picture, Waldbillig said his biggest concern is for the staff at the hospital and clinics.

“Making sure staff stay focused … and making sure that we try to keep them as healthy as possible,” Waldbillig said. “We’ve been talking with some staff trying to come up with a way to keep them here (working at the hospital)”

Assisting schools in the area with their personal protective equipment for students and teachers and doing other things to ensure students stay health is important, he said.

“We believe it’s extremely important to make sure the kids are there, because that keeps parents working, keeps them sane .. and helps all the way around,” Waldbillig said.

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