MCDONOUGH CO., Ill. (NEWS3) — A top official at McDonough District Hospital said MDH needs to get back to business as usual or it could face a loss of millions of dollars like other hospitals across the country.
MDH President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Dietz told the MDH Board of Directors Monday, a lot is uncertain for the hospital.
“None of us knows what the future has in store,” Dietz said. “One of my biggest concerns, there’s a lot of them that we all have, is getting primary care ramped back up and moving forward like it was two months ago.”
Dietz said he believes the threat of the pandemic will continue for months to come.
“We’re in this until at least there’s a vaccine,” Dietz said. “This is minimally an 18-month duration. Most vaccines take four years or so. We’re going to be in max and current procedures for years to come. COVID-19 is here to stay. This is the way it’s going to be. The more we adapt to it, the better off we’ll be.”
The MDH CEO/president recently announced a reduction of staff due to a sharp loss in the hospital’s revenue.
“We have tremendous declines in the ER volume and tremendous declines in our primary care practices,” Dietz said. “We’ve approached our current staffing to hang on to clinical staff right now that can deal with an influx of 60 patients if we’re full. We’re expecting significant losses of close to $3.8 to $4 million of losses in April. Essentially, we’ve had over an 85 to 90 percent decline in outpatient testing. Then going through May, the million dollar question is how much will the stay-at-home order impact people to getting back to their physician and primary care. We’re not expecting May to look any better.”
The hospital called the move a ‘reduction-in-force and a furlough plan,’ which impacted 60 employees who were either laid off or furloughed following a drop in services.
“Without primary care, things are not going to change,” Dietz said. “Our challenge is going to be next month, because we’ve held on to staffing up to this month, we have to be in a position to make a call based on an obligation on what happens in the county. All of our guidance suggests that we would be full with a lot of COVID-19 patients. We still may, depending on what happens.”
It’s unknown what departments the furloughs and layoffs affected, but Dietz said the hospital had to cancel 78 elective surgeries at a cost of $1.2 million for nearly two weeks in March.
“We’re trying to figure out how long can we stand at the current staffing level since we’re not full, but in anticipation of the volume that we expect,” Dietz said. “We can’t be here in July and August with this current staffing, we just simply don’t have the revenues for it. We’re going to have to watch it very carefully.”
Dietz said 80 to 90 percent of the hospital’s revenue volume “disappeared.” The hospital is hoping to resume elective surgeries May 11. Dietz believes wearing face masks will be the new normal for at least one or two years.
MDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Edwin Card also spoke to the board of directors during the meeting. He said there is now a change in restrictions regarding who can be tested for the coronavirus following an order by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Card said testing is now open to anyone, which means patients do not need to have an order from a physician in order to be tested. Card clarified to the board that the hospital had to follow strict guidelines before now.
“Anyone acutely ill was admitted and sent into the emergency room, if they are not acutely ill, they are asked to go back home and call their practitioner and they will come back to the tent either that day or the next day,” Card said. “We are not denying people testing, we are trying to keep people who may have COVID-19 from contaminating the emergency room by having them go to the tent. If they decide that that’s not convenient and they decide to go somewhere else, we can’t control that.”
Card said the hospital must continue to only use the testing supplies when needed.
“We’re probably going to limit the number that we test each day in order to conserve our materials for people who are in need of them,” Card said. “We don’t want so many people that we run out. Testing is a snapshot. You can’t get a test today and think you won’t get the virus. The idea to think that testing is going to prevent the problem is inaccurate.”
Card said there are new reports suggesting a connection between Influenza infection rates and COVID-19. Card also spoke to the Macomb City Council recently about how the hospital is responding to the pandemic and how it plans to handle patients that contract the virus.
McDonough County is currently reporting 14 positive (3 recovered), 162 negative and 35 pending coronavirus tests.
MDH has launched a drive-thru screening station. For service at the station, patients should be at least 18 years or older and must pre-register. Officials said patients must call the MDH nurse triage hotline or their primary care provider before showing up. The phone number to the nurse hotline is 309-836-1715. The hospital asks for no more than two people per vehicle. The station is open from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and runs from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Coronavirus testing is now available for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or risk factors, such as contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case or having a compromised immune system/serious chronic medical condition. Testing is also now offered for those with or without symptoms who work in a healthcare facility, correctional facility, serve as first responders or support critical infrastructure (work in grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, gas stations, public utilities, factories, childcare, and sanitation).
The MDH Board of Directors passed a measure during their meeting that involves MDH’s Emergent Staff Reduction Policy. MDH Public Relations and Marketing Director Patrick Osterman told NEWS3 the board voted on updating that policy as it pertains to reduction in staff and furloughs. He said it had not been updated in years. Osterman said the policy defines the purpose and guidelines of staff cuts, determination of emergency circumstances, determination of emergency staffing needs and recalling employees. NEWS3 is waiting to hear back with more about the change in policy.