Alex Walker

Alex Walker, vice president of operations for Catholic Medical Center, speaks at a Bedford Rotary breakfast meeting in 2019.

LRGHealthcare — which operates Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital — is prepared to take on a surge of COVID-19 patients but expects to lose millions of dollars from lost business.

The health care system estimates it will lose at least $50 million from shutting down elective and non-urgent services during the crisis, such as colonoscopies and annual physicals. The hospital brings in about $210 million in revenue each year, according to Kevin Donovan, LRGHealthcare president and CEO.

“We’re not seeing a corresponding decrease in expenses because we are actually ramping up staff across the organization to deal with the pandemic,” he said.

Hospitals and health care clinics across the state and country are in similar positions. The American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association last week urged congressional leaders to approve $100 billion in aid to help hospital and health care groups get through the crisis.

Donovan advocated for the stimulus money in a press conference over the weekend.

Last week, Gov. Chris Sununu signed an emergency order to create a $50 million fund for hospitals in the Granite State to receive low-interest loans.

Even with the boost, the New Hampshire Hospital Association estimates hospitals in the Granite State will lose about $200 million a month during the crisis, according to a news release. The association called Sununu’s emergency fund an “essential first step” in ensuring stability.

“Hospitals recently announced the suspension of all elective and non-urgent procedures, with some curtailing community practice hours, to preserve personal protective equipment and ensure a safe environment for staff, patients and the community,” a statement from the association reads. “These actions have resulted in significant revenue losses for hospitals across the state, as has standing up response efforts at hospitals to address a potential surge of COVID-19 patients.”

Catholic Medical Center in Manchester expects to lose “tens of millions in revenue” by the end of the crisis, according to executive vice president and chief operating officer Alex Walker.

“This is a crisis the likes of which none of us have ever seen,” he said.

Like other hospitals, CMC eliminated elective procedures, But the focus is not on the cost right now, but “getting the job done,” Walker said.

“It was a significant financial decision, but it was the right decision to keep our patients and our doctors and nurses and staff safe and healthy as we prepare for what is potentially ahead,” he said.

The hospital has started a COVID-19 response fund on its website, catholicmedicalcenter.org.

Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center has lost about 80% of its business, according to CEO Nick Vailas. The group is still doing surgery on patients who might get worse or are in extreme pain, he said.

“We don’t want those people also having to go to the hospital,” he said.

The drop in business has resulted in layoffs, pay cuts and the closure of one of its offices.

“What is tough is the uncertainty,” Vailas said. “We don’t know how long it is going to last. You try to mitigate as much of the damage as possible and stay optimistic.”

LRGHealthcare, like many other health care groups, was in poor financial condition before the crisis hit, Donovan said.

The system has not laid anyone off, but has moved staff around based on the needs.

“We have every expectation that the surge will continue and will eventually come to a point where it is essentially all that we are doing at some point in time,” he said.

Saturday, May 30, 2020