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Alpena hospital’s bottom line hurt by virus

Lost patients means lost revenue during lockdowns

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Work on MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena’s new patient tower continues on Friday.

ALPENA — MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena is not immune to the financial impacts of the coronavirus.

Like many hospitals throughout the state and nation, the Alpena hospital saw a significant reduction in its surgical services when non-emergency surgeries and related services — everything from x-rays to knee replacements — were put on hold for about 90 days by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our outpatient volume is probably about 75% of what we do in our organization, so, when you reduce that volume by about 75%, that had a huge impact on us, financially,” hospital President Chuck Sherwin said.

Traffic in the Alpena emergency room decreased by about 50% because people weren’t coming in like they usually do, Sherwin said. He said hospital officials worry that those who aren’t getting the care they need or are postponing it may be getting sicker.

Although the hospital was impacted financially, Sherwin said MidMichigan Health remains “financially strong at this time.”

It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how much money, if any, the Alpena hospital has lost. The hospital made a little over $141 million and spent a little over $136 million in its 2018 fiscal year, according to its most recent, publicly available tax return.

The hospital was also able to provide its employees with three weeks of additional paid time off while other hospitals throughout the state and the nation were laying people off. The Alpena hospital did not lay off employees.

He said Medicare gave the hospital six months of advanced payments, which the hospital is able to use to cover some of its expenses, but the hospital is required to pay the advancement back over the next six months.

Michigan hospitals collectively lost about $3.1 billion from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, including $2.7 billion in lost revenue and an additional $440 million in emergency expenses.

Sherwin said that, although the hospital was ready to treat patients, the Alpena hospital didn’t have the rush of patients health officials thought they would.

He said that, while the hospital has treated a number of coronavirus-infected patients, only 14 patients have been hospitalized so far. Sherwin said he expects to continue seeing such patients routinely in the hospital, but in very small numbers.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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