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Licking Memorial Hospital asking for donations after suffering $52 million loss during COVID shutdown

Ohio hospitals suffered $3.4 billion in losses during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Ohio hospitals suffered $3.4 billion in losses during the COVID-19 shutdown when non-COVID patient numbers dropped and elective procedures were canceled.

While the federal government injected more than $2 billion back into Ohio healthcare providers through CARES Act relief funding, “it is not sufficient to address this seismic hit to hospitals,” according to John Palmer with the Ohio Hospital Association.

That might explain why Licking Memorial Hospital is now turning to the public for donations.

While a hospital spokesman told 10 Investigates Friday that Licking Memorial is on sound financial footing, the hospital sustained a $52 million loss earlier this year.

The hospital’s new campaign to solicit donations from the public will help “restore the resources needed to protect and care for patients, staff and visitors during the pandemic,” the hospital said in a statement released this week:

“The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in hospitals throughout the state reporting a combined $3.3 billion in lost revenue. Locally, Licking Memorial Health Systems (LMHS) experienced a $52 million loss in revenue from March through May. While revenue decreased, Licking Memorial Hospital (LMH) spent approximately $2 million on COVID-19 preparations, including the purchase of additional personal protective equipment to reinforce the disaster supply stock. 

Licking Memorial Health Systems has initiated an effort to raise funds to restore the resources needed to protect and care for patients, staff and visitors during the pandemic. Financial gifts are welcome through LMHS COVID Relief – Restoring Resources … for Your Health. As the health crisis continues, LMHS remains diligent in maintaining the high standards of medical care that are essential to the well-being of the community. Each gift helps replenish funds used for the vital equipment and supplies necessary for the treatment of COVID-19 patients at LMH and implementation of heightened safety procedures.”

Dr. Bassam Kret, a Licking Memorial hospitalist who has treated COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, spoke to 10 Investigates Friday.

Kret said during the lull during the shutdown, he feared he or some of his colleagues might lose their jobs. Patient numbers, he said, had dropped off dramatically.

“That was unheard of at Licking Memorial,” he said, noting at one time that he and his colleagues were seeing 30 patients a week compared to their normal volume of 110 or 120.

While Licking Memorial received $5 million in CARES act relief funding, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to larger hospital systems that employ more people – like Ohio Health, which confirmed Friday that it received over $100 million in government assistance.

Our conversation with Kret also touched on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Ohio.

While Kret acknowledged that cases have been on an uptick in recent weeks, he said the more accurate measure – in his view – of how the coronavirus is impacting the state is by looking at hospitalizations and deaths.

He also said his fellow doctors have learned a lot of the past six months – especially when it comes to the efficacy of steroids, plasma from recovered COVID patients and the use of drugs like Remdesivir – which in his view has proved effective.

The one thing he says he cannot predict is how vastly different the coronavirus will affect each patient.

“Usually the person who is not going to do very well, their condition deteriorates very fast. I’ve seen people come into the hospital and 6 hours later require much higher oxygen. And within 24 hours they’re intubated and we’ve lost a few patients within 24 to 48 hours,” Kret said.

A stark reminder buried in a sea of daily numbers.