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Rural Hospital Executives In Northern NY Discuss COVID-19 Impacts

Screenshot from North Country Chamber tele-town hall
Screenshot from North Country Chamber tele-town hall

The North Country Chamber has been holding periodic tele-town halls featuring business, community and legislative leaders answering questions regarding COVID-19 and its impact on the region.  Thursday morning the presidents of three northern New York hospitals discussed the fiscal stress the pandemic is putting on rural health care providers.
The chamber’s webinar brought together the presidents of Adirondack Health, and the UVM Health Network’s New York hospitals in Elizabethtown, Plattsburgh andMalone. All questions were submitted in advance.

During opening statements the three administrators characterized the last couple months as a “crazy time” especially for small rural hospitals.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week that elective outpatient procedures will soon be allowed in lower risk counties of New York.  Adirondack Health President and CEO Sylvia Getman says they are eager to begin but haven’t gotten information from the state.  “Elective procedures for most small and rural hospitals are a majority of the revenue that we actually generate. So for Adirondack Health that's more than 60% of the business that we do and that's just on the elective surgery side. So, obviously, all of us are very interested in starting to reopen services so that we can continue to serve our communities. With that I should also point out though that we really haven't gotten full guidance yet from the Department of Health.”

Elizabethtown Community Hospital President John Remillard outlined significant losses at the rural hospital that also serves the Ticonderoga area.  “Our income has shrunk by greater than 50%. That's somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million per month. So it's a big financial hit.”

Remillard reports that the hospital has received about $815,000 in federal aid so far but will need about $1.5 million each month operations are constrained.
UVM Health Network CVPH in Plattsburgh is the largest hospital in northern New York. It has received about $6.8 million and Alice Hyde in Malone has gotten about $1.2 million in federal CARES Act aid.  President Michelle LeBeau says much more will be needed.  “We are actually looking at the run out for the next six months and projecting growth in volume. And so I believe that by the time we get to the end of September CVPH will sit at about a deficit of $27 to $28 million if projections fly, and they're changing every day, and Alice Hyde will sit at a deficit of around $11 million.”

Adirondack Health received an aid payment of $1.9 million, which was about 2/3 of the hospital’s March losses. Getman says losses are expected to quadruple in April.   “There has been communication relative to additional funding that's coming out and most encouraging some that's actually targeting rural hospitals. Rural was impacted differently and we were fragile all of us nationally to start with. So we're trying to read the details very closely but we'll know better when the checks arrive.”


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