This article has been updated to correct findings by the Indiana Hospital Association.
INDIANAPOLIS—Hospitals and nursing home officials said their facilities continue to face financial issues and a lack of proper equipment months after the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Indiana Hospital Association asked lawmakers in a news release Tuesday to distribute more financial relief to hospitals that have faced unique expenses and that have lost revenue from outpatient visits due to COVID-19 shutdowns. The American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) published a separate letter asking governors around the country for more personal protective equipment, or PPE, for tests that can provide faster results and for help in trying to reopen to visitors.
Indiana's critical access hospitals, which serve rural areas, saw an average negative operating margin of -27.7% in April, according to the Indiana Hospital Association. That’s because more money had to go to equipment like ventilators and intensive care capacity. Many hospitals also had to start converting regular rooms into intensive care unit, or ICU, rooms to accommodate patients who were most affected by the new virus.
Hospitals also struggled to provide enough PPE for health care workers. The price of surgical masks was inflated nearly 10 times their market value, the hospital association reported, and, in one case, a hospital had to pay $7.00 per mask for masks that normally cost 37 cents each.
The American Hospital Association — the national arm of the Indiana Hospital Association —projected hospitals and other health care facilities could lose more than $320 billion this year as a result of COVID-19 challenges.
While hospitals are facing financial struggles, other care facilities are asking local government for help in decreasing COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes across the country.
A letter sent by the AHCA and NCAL to the National Governors Association warns states of another major outbreak in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, a direct result of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in some states as they have started to reopen.
Nine out of 10 nursing homes or assisted-living facilities reported to the organizations that patients have had to wait two or more days for COVID-19 test results to come back, for example. Organization leaders said this delay is causing stress for staff, residents and family members who want to protect their loved ones.
Like the hospital association, the AHCA and NCAL are asking for additional PPE for nursing home residents and staff — specifically N-95 masks to prevent the virus from spreading.
“Given the fact that we are several months into the response of this pandemic and the lack of PPE supplies is still an issue is very concerning,” the letter reads.
However, with the proper help from public health leaders, some nursing home facilities are trying to reopen, the letter notes, as doing so is important for the wellbeing of residents. Most are limiting visitors to one or two per resident and scheduling visitation times at no more than 30 minutes.
The Indiana State Department of Health has yet to release data about COVID-19 infections and deaths in individual nursing homes, but is preparing to do so this month, according to state health officials. Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said in a virtual news briefing Wednesday that state health leaders are in the process of confirming information with each facility.
The state health department now lists statewide totals for COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing homes. According to the online dashboard, 5,695 total COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in long-term care facilities so far, and a total of 1,245 deaths related to the virus have been reported from the facilities overall.
Taylor Dixon is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.