THOMASVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An entire city celebrated in 2020 when, early within the coronavirus pandemic, Thomasville Regional Medical Center opened, providing state-of-the-art drugs that was beforehand unavailable in a poor, remoted a part of Alabama. The timing for the ribbon-cutting appeared excellent: New therapy choices can be accessible in an underserved space simply as a worldwide well being disaster was unfolding.
In the tip, that very same timing would be the purpose for the hospital’s undoing.
Now deep within the pink two years into the pandemic, the 29-bed, $40 million hospital with a hovering, sun-drenched foyer and 110 staff is amongst three medical facilities within the United States that say they’re lacking out on tens of millions in federal pandemic reduction cash as a result of the amenities are so new they lack full monetary statements from earlier than the disaster to show how a lot it value them.
In Thomasville, positioned in timber nation about 95 miles north of the Gulf Coast port of Mobile, hospital officers have labored greater than a yr to persuade federal officers they need to have gotten $8.2 million via the CARES Act, not simply the $1 million they obtained. With a complete debt of $35 million, the hunt will get extra pressing every day, mentioned Curtis James, the chief govt officer.
“No hospital can sustain itself without getting the CARES Act money that everybody else got,” James mentioned.
Employees are attempting to economize by slicing again on provides however residents together with Judy Hutto are anxious concerning the hospital’s future. Hutto drove there just lately for assessments from her house 15 miles (24 kilometers) out within the nation.
“The areas needs it,” she mentioned. “It’s a nice hospital.”
CEO Barry Beus is also attempting to plug a spot at Rock Regional Hospital, positioned south of Wichita in Derby, Kansas. The hospital is due as a lot as $15.8 million, officers mentioned, however as a result of it solely opened in April 2019 and lacks full pre-pandemic monetary statements, it has obtained just a bit greater than $985,000.
The solely factor that’s saved the power from monetary spoil thus far is the cooperation of medical doctors, contractors and distributors who haven’t pushed for funds, he mentioned. “If we lose them, we lose the hospital,” mentioned Beus.
Three Crosses Regional Hospital opened in 2020 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and piled up a staggering $16.8 million in losses in simply three quarters whereas receiving solely $28,000 in support, mentioned Landon Fulmer, a Washington lobbyist working with all three hospitals to acquire further funding. Each facility is being penalized for being new despite the fact that they offered the identical pricey COVID-19 care as different medical facilities and misplaced income from different procedures together with elective surgical procedures, he mentioned.
“It really is quite a strange situation in a way, one that shouldn’t have happened,” Fulmer mentioned.
With about 420,000 well being care suppliers nationwide already receiving help from a $178 billion pot, the federal government isn’t masking 100% of losses for anybody, mentioned Chris Lundquist, a spokesman for the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, which is overseeing this system.
“HRSA has strived to provide as much support as possible to as many hospitals as possible within the limits of the law and funding,” he mentioned. The company mentioned it used proxy monetary info for hospitals that opened in 2019 or 2020 to create an equitable cost system.
“They have all received funding,” mentioned Lundquist.
While nearly all the help cash is spoken for, Lundquist mentioned hospitals in search of further support can undergo an appeals course of. Hospitals can also search a supplemental appropriation or funding within the upcoming fiscal years, he mentioned. All three of the hospitals say they deserve extra.
Officials in Thomasville are attempting to leverage congressional affect. Mayor Sheldon Day has made a number of journeys to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of the state’s congressional delegation and well being officers, and the president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson, has contacted the White House in search of assist.
“They’ve been assured they’re going to be taken care of. But the fact is, when you’re dealing with government entities, you don’t have the money until you have the money,” mentioned Williamson.
Located in southwest Alabama, Thomasville lies inside an impoverished space referred to as the Black Belt. About 70% of Black Belt residents qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, and well being care has been restricted for generations.
The final hospital shut down in Thomasville greater than a decade in the past, leaving solely hospitals that provide fewer companies within the surrounding area. Officials labored for years to safe a brand new hospital so residents wouldn’t need to drive 90 minutes for high-tech companies comparable to digital imaging, full surgical choices, echocardiograms, 3D mammography and extra.
Using a partnership between town and a municipal well being care authority, Thomasville Regional secured federal funding from the Department of Agriculture and opened on March 3, 2020, earlier than instances of COVID-19 caught fireplace within the rural South.
“We thought we were off to a good start,” mentioned James, the chief govt. “And then everything shut down.”
Patients stopped displaying up for scans, elective surgical procedures, mammographies and different moneymaking companies due to pandemic shutdowns, and monetary stories that appeared promising turned perilous inside weeks.
Recognizing that new hospitals couldn’t calculate COVID-19 losses as a result of they couldn’t evaluate 2020 numbers with previous years, Health and Human Services allowed hospitals to make use of finances numbers for calculations fairly than prior monetary statements. That’s how the hospital decided that it was lacking out on greater than $7 million in support, James mentioned.
While the hospital remains to be ready on that support, he mentioned, the federal government did agree to supply $1 million in help that went to all different hospitals.
“That was OK, but other hospitals that are in our region got $8 million, $9 million,” he mentioned.
The Birmingham-based Medical Properties Trust just lately gave the hospital $2 million and James mentioned leaders are assured Thomasville Regional will ultimately get the additional federal support. “But it will take time,” he mentioned.
Like Thomasville Regional, Rock Regional in Kansas noticed revenues dry up quickly after opening, mentioned Beus, the CEO. It’s nonetheless experiencing employees shortages due to the pandemic and having to pay a premium to journey nurses to work shifts on the wards, he mentioned, all whereas working with consultants and members of Congress simply attempting to remain afloat.
“It’s been a little frustrating,” he mentioned.