Community Health reports $13.7M operations loss during first quarter

Community Health Network is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, losing $13.7 million on operations during the first three months of the year, compared with a profit of $45.7 million in the first quarter a year ago.

The Indianapolis-based hospital system lost another $201.2 million on investments during the quarter, as the economy and financial markets tanked.

“The pandemic impacted all the network’s hospitals,” Community Health said in a financial filing this month.

The hospital system said it was especially hard hit by the postponing of elective surgeries and other procedures after Gov. Eric Holcomb declared a public health emergency on March 6 and directed hospitals to delay non-urgent procedures on March 16. Hospitals make most of their money on elective procedures, such as hip replacements and spinal surgeries.

Community Health, which operates six hospitals and scores of medical clinics and ambulatory surgery centers, said outpatient surgeries dropped 9.7%. Inpatient surgeries fell 5.2% and emergency room visits dropped 2%.

Operating expenses for the quarter climbed more than $2.5 million for COVID-19 preparedness costs, including initial purchases of personal protective equipment, creation of additional negative-airflow rooms, rental costs for beds and ventilators, and overtime for certain staff.

“The network expects these costs to increase in the coming weeks as additional needs are addressed and additional staff expenses are incurred,” the filing said.

On the other hand, outpatient visits rose about 16% and newborn deliveries rose about 4%. Community Health North delivers more babies than any other hospital in central Indiana.

In April, Community Health received about $197 million related to lost revenue and higher costs from various state and federal programs. The bulk of that, $131 million, was from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services accelerated payment program; Community Health said it will repay the funds by April 2021.

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