In spite of the uncertainty that the novel coronavirus has caused for countries, businesses and families, the outpouring of humanity from the community we have the privilege to serve has been humbling and inspiring to all of us at Grande Ronde Hospital and Clinics. It has meant more than I can possibly express.
First, let me reassure you that GRH is on solid financial footing. I know it can be hard to read the headlines that some rural hospitals across the nation, already vulnerable to closure, may not survive this pandemic. Thanks to years of good financial stewardship and loyal local support, GRH entered into this crisis in a strong position. We will not, however, emerge unscathed.
As many of our peers have also reported, we are experiencing a significant reduction in volumes. We have also seen a substantial increase in costs associated with COVID-19 preparedness. Compared to previous financial benchmark periods our revenue is down over one-third. Our responsibility to both our organization and to the community we serve is a balance we must carefully navigate as we face reduced revenue and increased costs. By not taking meaningful action now, our ability to continue serving our community from a position of strength and independence will be jeopardized. So, let me share with you what have already done.
First, the current economic reality we face was shared with our employees in early April. I am both proud and humbled to report that many have already generously offered to temporarily reduce their pay or hours to help us through this. In addition, our leadership team, both managers and administrators, developed an expense reduction plan to help combat the effects of declining volumes that have occurred and will likely continue for the short term. We tightened our collective belt and everyone has contributed in some way.
As an independent hospital, we wrestle with decisions that have both short and long-term impacts to the organization, as well as our local economy. I believe that as a community we share a collective role to ensure our local health care services continue strong and independent for generations to come. I anticipate rural Oregon will lag a little from the statewide peak COVID-19 projections. However, the news that by mid-May we will have likely seen the worst, has given me a sense of optimism that we are getting closer to the recovery period that will follow the response phase we are in now.
As we think about both phases, it is vitally important to note that Union County’s everyday medical needs do not disappear during a pandemic. Are our volumes down because people do not need health care? Or are some patients who truly need care canceling appointments because of uncertainty in whether to keep a scheduled visit or not? Our local medical experts tell me that if we do not address our community’s health care needs now, it will only exacerbate projections of an influx of critically ill patients in the coming weeks.
I trust the clinical judgment of our medical staff to care for the needs of our community. I appreciate the realistic, thoughtful and compassionate approach our providers and staff have taken. As such, GRH is strongly advocating for clear and consistent messaging from our elected officials as it relates to all of the care we are able to provide during this response.
Currently, there are conflicting messages from elected officials – both state and federal – on whether outpatient care is considered elective or essential. We encourage our elected officials to consider a more nuanced approach to the blanket restrictions imposed on all health care facilities that will empower our providers to use their clinical judgment for determination of what is medically necessary.
If the outpatient care model is not supported and embraced as a needed component to an emergency operations plan, the overcrowding of hospitals that these elected officials hope to avoid could lead to an influx of avoidable ER visits and devastate intensive resources when most needed.
As an organization, I am convinced that we are fully prepared to handle this current pandemic as it peaks in our community, while we continue to safely provide the quality of care we promise.
Jeremy P. Davis, MHA
President & CEO