CARES Act funding helps carry hospitals through pandemic
By Syndey Hoover
ND Newspaper Association
Across the country, images of overcrowded emergency rooms and reports of hospitals lacking resources to treat COVID-19 patients can be seen in urban areas that continue to see virus surges.
But for the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems hospital in Watford City, the opposite is true: emergency room volumes and elective operations are down. CEO Dan Kelly said since the pandemic began, the hospital has lost around $4 million in revenue.
“My real worry is that if this continues to be the case where the public is not coming back to the clinic or the public is not choosing to have surgery, and should this trend of reduced revenue continue…it will create a problem for facilities such as mine,” Kelly said.
Rural areas like McKenzie County have long sustained their hospitals through grant money, Kelly said, working against consistent operating losses. Seeking medical attention at a more urban hospital would take a two to three-hour drive for McKenzie County residents, which Kelly said could be the difference in life or death in cases of emergency.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, rural hospitals across the country are seeing a sharp decrease in patients, and outpatient appointments and elective procedures make up as much as 80 percent of revenue, the Los Angeles Times reported in May.