May 18, 2020 / Stephen Thomas, Contributor
I was leading my hospital’s daily Covid-19 huddle when my colleague slid his phone down the large conference room table in front of me. He lowered his mask, “Read it.” The text read, “Furloughed, are you hiring?” The message was from a friend employed at one of the local hospitals. Every day my colleagues and I had been discussing the potential financial ramifications of the pandemic on our health care system, but this news turned the hypothetical into a stark new reality.
A few days later, it was reported in my local newspaper over 1,600 hospital employees in Central New York had been furloughed. Now, over 1.4 million cases and 84,000 deaths into the U.S. Covid-19 epidemic, not a day goes by without receiving more news of health care’s rapid financial decline. I was perplexed how health care workers could be fired, furloughed, or asked to take pay cuts as they donned PPE to care for critically ill patients at great personal risk. It made me wonder if the U.S. health care system would soon itself succumb to Covid-19 and become another fatality of the pandemic.
Covid-19 has stopped the delivery of many health care services in their tracks. The shutdown of almost all non-essential surgeries, procedures, and in-person medical visits cut off the lifeblood of revenue generation for hospitals, health care systems, and private practices. The American Hospital Association (AHA) estimates U.S. hospitals and health systems will experience over $202 billion in losses between March and June 2020.