UVM Well being Community studies $21 million in losses

Dr. John Brumsted, CEO of the UVM Health Network, at a press conference on the state’s second suspected case of COVID-19. on Thursday March 12, 2020 Photo by Mike Dougherty / VTDigger

The University of Vermont Health Network lost $ 21.3 million between October 2020 and January 2021. President John Brumsted listed the losses to persistent fears of seeking care during a pandemic.

The fiscal first four months of the deficit is due to the state’s largest healthcare system posting a loss of $ 16 million in 2020.

“The numbers were horrific,” said Kevin Mullin, the state’s top health regulator, of the latest reports. He urged the state’s largest health system to “put it [its] House fine. “

Brumsted downplayed the effects of two major setbacks at Burlington Hospital – a ransomware attack in October and the closure of Fanny Allen in November. The losses were in line with national trends showing people were slow to seek care, he said. He pointed to a study that found that the number of emergency rooms at the national level had decreased by 25%.

Patient volumes in hospitals across the network were between 5% and 15% lower than in 2019 during this period, Brumsted said. The numbers varied depending on the location, he noted.

“The UVM Health Network is not unique in terms of national phenomena,” said Brumsted.

The $ 39 million in state and federal aid has helped, but not completely closed the hole, the network chief said.

The UVM Medical Center, the largest hospital in the network, also faced a number of setbacks this winter. A cyber attack in late October destroyed the network’s electronic health record system for almost two months. In December, hospital president Stephen Leffler said the attack cost the hospital $ 1.5 million a day, or more than $ 60 million in total.

In November, Fanny Allen employees reported another wave of the mysterious symptoms of fatigue and nausea that had plagued workers in the Colchester building since the fall of 2019. For the third time, the hospital moved patients and staff to the main Burlington campus.

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In an interview, Brumsted said the network is still evaluating losses and cannot say how much an incident cost the organization or how much it affected the bottom line.

“Most of the current financial situation is related to the Covid pandemic: increased spending and a decrease in the number of people getting access to health care,” he said.

Hospitals have been hit hard by the pandemic, especially during the closings last spring. In some cases, patient visits have increased. The data remains incomplete, however, said Jeff Tieman, CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

“We know that recovery varies from organization to organization and that some patients still have lower patient volumes,” said Tieman.

The question now is how, according to Mullin, the UVM Health Network will cut costs to save money.

The health care regulator said the hospital administrators are not responsible for budget constraints, noting that the UVM Medical Center also received less incentive than other Vermont facilities because it does not fall under the federal designation of a rural hospital.

Whatever the cause, “it’s definitely a low point for them,” Mullin said. “When the largest hospital is not meeting its financial goals, you have a problem.”

Brumsted was unable to give precise details on how exactly the organization wanted to tighten their belts.

Hospital administrators were shuffling staff and considering cutting jobs and programs, he said. Brumsted couldn’t tell what jobs or services he’d cut, despite vowing to make sure patients continued to have access to the care they needed.

“We need to balance our spending with the amount of care people need to provide, and we are in the process of doing that,” he said.

Brumsted also said he didn’t know if the losses could affect the organization’s bond rating.

When the hospital falters, it will inevitably be supported by patients, said health care attorney Mike Fisher.

“People have this magical thought that there is more money from on high,” he said. Apart from the federal subsidy, this is paid for through insurance tariffs and higher fees. “It’s out of Vermonter’s pockets,” said Fisher.

Publicly announcing the losses could help boost the hospital’s cause as the official jockey for part of the upcoming federal stimulus package. But the hospital made the announcement on the grounds of “transparency,” said spokesman Neal Goswami.

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Even so, this funding is expected to “contain some of our losses,” Brumsted said in a press release. “The strong financial support we have received from federal and state leaders is helping us weather this storm, and we are grateful for this support.”

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