Florida hospitals respond to growing costs, demands during COVID-19 pandemic

Across the state, at least 20,000 hospital beds sit empty as all non-emergency surgeries and procedures stopped weeks ago.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Florida hospitals respond to growing costs, demands during COVID-19 pandemic

The move was to stockpile critical equipment and supplies in the fight against COVID-19.

“I think Florida has done really well in the crisis so far, and just needs to maintain its effort,” said Justin Senior, CEO of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, a coalition of teaching, public and children’s hospital groups that includes Orlando Health.

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But health care experts say that effort comes with enormous cost.

In place of normal income streams are ballooning expenses and frozen revenue, meaning major hospital systems across the day are losing upwards of $1 million a day.

“That’s burning the candles at both ends in a way, that cannot be sustained even in a relatively short-term,” said Senior.

Outside of COVID-19, Orlando Health System’s brings a $4.5 billion impact to Central Florida’s economy.

“They’ve taken on, between surge planning and additional supplies, probably $10 million in additional expenditures just in the second half of March,” Senior said.

While the first wave of payments from the recently passed federal CARES Act is on the way for some of the nation’s hospitals, Senior said the distribution approach is causing concern due to a lack of equity for parts of the state.

That’s why the alliance is asking the state to increase reimbursement for Medicaid treatments for COVID-19 and for maternity, which is operating but seeing massive costs in PPE and supplies.

The hope is to lessen mounting financial pressure as the status quo heads toward May.

“We’re just trying to put ideas out there for how hospitals can help their income stream right now so that they’re not laying people off while they’re also trying to prepare for this,” Senior said.