CHI Mercy Medical Center prepared for the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, but it came with a hefty price tag.
The hospital expects a $9 million drop in revenue for the month of April, and 350 staff members were laid off or saw their hours reduced, Chief Executive Operator Kelly Morgan said during a tour of the COVID-19 surge unit Wednesday.
“This is a major impact,” Morgan said. “We clearly want to keep patients safe, we want to be prepared. We’ve done both of that. It’s had a major impact.”
Following the executive order by Gov. Kate Brown, the hospital stopped performing elective surgeries that require extensive use of personal protective equipment, but the hospital remains open for care.
Despite being open, there was a 25% drop in emergency room visits, a 45% drop in inpatient visits, a 75% loss in surgeries and a 60% loss in rehabilitation patients, according to Morgan. The hospital is currently operating at about 50% capacity.
“People should come in for needed care,” said Kathleen Nickel, communications director at CHI Mercy Medical Center. “The hospital is for all patients. If we need to take care of COVID patients, we will do that safely and not have that impact our other patients.”
To protect patients and staff the hospital from the coronavirus a separate COVID-19 unit in a self-contained area of the building has been set up. The COVID-19 unit includes 30 beds for patients suffering from COVID-19 and an additional six beds in an intensive care unit.
There have been coronavirus patients at the hospital but never more than one at a time, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Gray.
The hospital plans to open the COVID-19 unit if there are four patients in its care diagnosed with COVID-19.
This will help the hospital conserve personal protection equipment.
The COVID-19 intensive care unit is attached to a separate intensive care unit for coronavirus patients which will require a higher level of staff protection.
There are three rooms set up for intensive care. Each can hold up to two patients who require critical care such as ventilators.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Gray said.
Preparations in Douglas County for the coronavirus began in mid-February. Original estimates at that time suggested the number of critical care patients in Douglas County in mid-April would be around 40-70, with between 130-150 coronavirus patients in the hospital.
“Fortunately, probably due to a number of the efforts that have been enacted publicly and privately, that’s all slowed,” Gray said. “When you look at doubling time. How long does it take cases to double? Instead of it being three days, which it was earlier, it’s eight days now. That’s really put a damper, in a good way, on the number of cases that we’ve had. We hope that continues.”
The hospital remains open for emergency care, including surgery, and other care that required a low level usage of personal protective equipment, such as scans or imaging.
Gray said he hoped the governor would take an incremental approach to loosening the restrictions, including those placed on surgeries.
“We believe that we can begin to safely take care of the community patients who need care and still have this in our pocket to open up quickly any time we can, kind of balance both of those,” Gray said.