Oregon Hospitals Say Their Revenue Is Plunging as They Cancel Elective Surgeries

Rural hospitals warn of "reductions in hours and salary, paid furloughs, transitioning to per diems and layoffs.”

Oregon Health & Science University. (Aaron Wessling)

Hospitals might seem the last businesses that would experience a financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the industry group representing hospitals is pleading for $200 million to stabilize them.

"At a time of significant community need, hospitals are having to make very difficult decisions about how to keep their doors open, maintain services and retain staff," wrote Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems, in an April 6 letter to Gov. Kate Brown. "Hospitals are implementing a variety of strategies, including reductions in hours and salary, paid furloughs, transitioning to per diems and layoffs."

In the letter to Gov. Brown, signed by several industry professionals, the hospitals say revenues are down 40 to 60 percent while costs are increasing.

That's because hospitals were ordered to cancel elective surgeries to keep beds open for a coming surge of COVID-19 patients, and fewer people are seeking out-patient treatment while they practice social distancing. Hospitals, particularly in rural parts of the state not yet significantly impacted by the outbreak, warn they are suffering financially.

Unemployment filings offer some evidence to support that claim: As of last week, more than 9,500 workers in Oregon's health care and social assistance sector were seeking benefits after losing their jobs.

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