CARES Act gives Tahoe Forest Health System boost to bottom line
Special to the Sierra Sun
As part of the CARES Act providing relief to those affected by COVID-19, the Department of Health and Human Services has released around $10 billion to help small hospitals and rural health-care providers mitigate the costs they’ve incurred due to coronavirus.
The Tahoe Forest Health System, which has emergency rooms in Incline Village and Truckee, recently received a $9.4 million grant to go toward its expenses.
“Our gross revenues have fallen in April approximately $500,000 per calendar day and expenses have increased $10,000-$20,000 per day to properly serve and treat patients in our region with new programs, staffing, PPE and drug costs,” said Tahoe Forest CEO Harry Weis. “This federal funding is very gratefully received but doesn’t cover the losses that health-care systems are facing across the country.”
The Tahoe Forest hospital in Truckee currently has nine ventilators and six ICU beds; Weis said the number of COVID cases at Tahoe Forest peaked in late March and then slowed down in April.
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“We have some ventilators that we can lease, but we’re slowing down acquisition. We have anesthesia machines that can also work as ventilators,” Weis said.
“We’re estimating that March 31-April 3 was the last peak week,” he said. “We may see a trickle effect of positive cases coming as the State of California expands lab testing, but the key thing is that the number of positives have been declining.”
MEETING DEMAND FOR TESTING
The State of California recently opened up 80 more testing sites, including two in Placer County. Administered by OptumServe, the COVID-19 testing site in Kings Beach is open by appointment only through https://lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling 888-634-1123. Anyone who displays symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested. Nevada County opened new testing sites as well and Weis believes that those locations can handle administering up to 100 tests a day based on staff time and demand.
The Incline Village Community Hospital has had a testing site open for a few weeks, but it is only available to those who take an assessment through the Washoe County Health District or qualify through its tiered system. Tahoe Forest tested about eight of the 19 positive cases that were reported in Incline, the others were done through a third party.
“We’ve had 57 positive cases total across all counties in patients who’ve come to us to get tested,” Weis said. He attributes being able to curb the spread by being proactive in using safety gear.
“We’ve been diligent in accessing PPE since day one, that has come from state and government sources as well as kind acts from the community,” he said, adding the community has stepped up in helping to provide cloth face masks health-care workers can wear all day, wash, and reuse. The hospital also receives donations through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund that goes towards bringing in additional staff, equipment, and supplies.
In his 43 years of working in health care, Weis has seen a higher volumes of flu acuity in years’ past than what COVID-19 is causing now, but it’s the costs of COVID-19 that are so financially draining.
“Yes, COVID-19 is a serious issue and we all need to do our part to practice social distancing, washing our hands, and wearing masks, but this is much lighter volume than busy flu seasons.
“I haven’t seen hospitals hurt financially like they have this year,” he says, adding that he saw reports of some hospitals are reporting revenue losses of up to $1.4 billion per day. “The Mayo Clinic has 63,000 positions (nationwide) and furloughed 30,000 people because patient volume has been decimated,” he adds.
Even though Weis believes that the need for hospitalization due to COVID-19 is declining each week, the costs for masks, shields, and gowns have gone up.
However, the Tahoe Forest Health System has been holding strong by keeping all of its staff employed and Weis said he feels fortunate to work with a great team. There were 12 health-care workers who tested positive for COVID-19, but Weis believes that they contracted it through the community and not from their workplace.
“Our health-care workers are committed to the health and safety of the community and they are putting it all on the line 24 hours a day seven days a week. Yes, they are human, and they have worries, but they are offering incredible service,” he explains.
Weis adds that the community support in return has also boosted morale.
“The donations of food, kind thoughts and expressions…the team is so grateful for the support from the community. (Recently) the police, fire department, first responders, and even the Nevada Air National Guard flew over the Tahoe Forest hospitals to express their thanks, and these kind gestures from the community is therapeutic for our team.”
For additional facts, community updates, and information related to COVID-19 from the Tahoe Forest Health System, visit https://www.tfhd.com/covid.
Kayla Anderson is a Staff Writer with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun.
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